By Lanier Laney
Have you been watching “The Abolitionists” on PBS this past week? It starts off with the moving story of the two Grimke sisters,
Sarah and Angelina, two teenage daughters of one of the most prominent and powerful white families in Charleston who, driven by faith, spoke out against the evils of slavery and eventually had to move to the North because of their beliefs. What you may not know is that the two girls used to spend their summers in Beaufort at their uncle’s home, which is the present day historic home of Nell Smith at 901 Prince St.
That house is across the street from the Sons of Beaufort Hall at 607 West St. where
Martin Luther King Jr. visited 130 years later. (When they were restoring the building, a polaroid fell out from the wall slats that showed Dr. King in front).
Perhaps someday there will be an historic marker at the corner of West and Prince streets regarding this history near the hallowed ground where these freedom fighters tread — not to mention Harriet Tubman and Robert Smalls also surely walked there too.
Did you know that Dr. King wrote his famous “I Have A Dream” speech on St. Helena Island? Penn Center, as well as being the first school for freed slaves in the South, was an important refuge for Civil Rights leaders fearing attacks in the “Jim Crow” south. Started by Quakers, Penn Center was run by a Quaker family in the 1960’s who allowed Martin Luther and other leaders to meet there in safety.
I am told that Beaufort Country has more important African American historic sites than almost any county in America! Including the first place the Emancipation Proclamation was read, first schools for freedmen, first black regiment in the U.S.
military, first black congressman, and on and on.
Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, Robert Smalls, the Grimke sisters — these are some of the very famous names that have walked our streets. We celebrate their bravery in their commitment to freedom for all Americans this Martin Luther King Day.
OTHER MLK DAY RELATED EVENTS
• Please join Penn Center at Community Sing in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, January 20 at the Frissell Community House. This event is free and open to the public. Dr. Edward Johnson will be the orator of the day. He will read Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. Dr. Johnson is a Beaufort native. and U.S. Army Veteran who is employed by the Beaufort County School district as a Guidance Counselor at Hilton Head Island High and has been actively employed with the Beaufort County School district for the past 16 years.
• All Beaufort County Government offices will be closed Monday, January 21 in honor of the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday. These closures also include all county library branches and all Solid Waste Convenience Centers.
• MLK Trivia Contest: How much do you know about Dr. King? Now is your chance to test your mettle! All ages welcome Saturday, January 19 at 1 p.m. at the Lobeco Branch Library, 1862 Trask Parkway, Lobeco, SC 29931. Contact: 843-255-6479 or visit www.beaufortcountylibrary.org.
• The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parade in Beaufort will start at 10 a.m. Monday, Jan. 21 and will follow the traditional parade route through downtown along Bay Street.