Monday, January 21, 2019

The CCC, Segregation, and Edisto Island State Park

Edisto Island State Park is a little piece of heaven on the coast of South Carolina, undeveloped forever, and available for all to enjoy the beach life.  


It gets crowded in the summer, but on a beautiful 68 degree January day it was all ours. Well, we did have to share a few crumbs from our picnic with this guy — obviously an experienced beach bum and fearless beggar!  


 
We didn’t mind a bit!  

Edisto is one of the first state parks open in the state, one of 16 built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) which gave jobs to 3 million Americans in public works projects during the Great Depression.  






The beautiful original bath house still stands behind the sand dunes, having survived some mighty hurricanes since it was built.  









As everywhere on the SC coast, sea turtles are a protected species. Especially vulnerable during the hatching season, nests are carefully protected by the Turtle Patrol which even has its own park vehicle!  

Today all are welcome to enjoy these public lands, but I was surprised to discover it wasn’t always that way.

From their conception until 1966 (1966!!) blacks were not allowed to use the parks in South Carolina.  In 1956 a lawsuit was filed demanding access for blacks.  When it became apparent that the state would lose the lawsuit, rather than complying they simply closed all the state parks completely to everyone!  
For 10 years!  

(A couple state parks opened inferior facilities and small “special areas” for blacks.  Edisto remained closed.)

It wasn’t until 1966 that all South Carolina state parks were reopened with equal access to all citizens.  

I am rather amazed at my Northerner ignorance about segregation.  It never occurred to me that Nature — the ocean, the woods, lakes, beaches, boat landings, paths — could be subject to segregation.  

Today, Martin Luther King Day, seems a good day to think about it.  





MLK at the Penn Center, St Helena Island near Beaufort, SC, where he stayed for 9 months  and worked on his famous I Have a Dream speech. 

14 comments:

  1. Thanks for a thoughtful post reminding us of this shameful legacy. I fear that while legislation has changed, little in the way of public attitude has evolved. And Trump, a rank racist himself, is enabling people to once again publicly act out their prejudice and hate. And that little weasel, Mike Pence, and his smarmy wife are even worse.

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  2. I was shocked to read that even nature's own gifts were segregated. I would never have guessed that it only changed in 1966.

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  3. I never knew that either. But not surprising considering the prejudices that still run deep among some whites which is being fed by the president attitudes and actions.

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  4. Your post raised a question in my mind which sent me off to Wikipedia to investigate. Oh yes, as I'd expected, black people were allowed to work on CCC projects. Originally there was supposed to be no segregation within the CCC but that didn't last long - soon there were separate black units in may areas. Even worse these black units got many of the worst jobs and there was little chance for black workers to gain promotion to supervisory roles.

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    1. Yup, they were good enough to do the work but not good enough to enjoy the fruit of their labors. True of so many of the beautiful things blacks built in this state. Here is a link you might enjoy with more info and photos. It is part of an educational exhibit created by the Park Service.
      https://www.arcgis.com/apps/MapJournal/index.html?appid=f7d41a2e8288446ea6bda99390b45f95

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  5. That is such a strange part of the US that segregation to black people. To close parks for other people, how can you ivent that.

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  6. wow - I grew up in Upstate SC and didn't know that information. I don't live in SC now, but it is forever my HOME! Just found this site. https://southcarolinaparks.com/civil-rights-movement
    I am one of 7 children - my growing up years are quite different than my younger siblings. My father worked in a grocery warehouse, staffed by people of different races. Sadly, I remember as a little girl visiting his work place & wondering what was different that there were two water fountains - one labeled 'whites' the other 'colored'. One of my father's co-workers (of another race) had the same last name as ours so we didn't really understand discrimination, we just thought we must be cousins. My grandmother was widowed in her 40's with young children. Some of her best friends were a family who lived nearby. My father remembered them very kindly as part of his childhood support system. The family was a different skin color than our pale white skin, but I never thought anything other than how special this family was to my dad (and us).

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    1. That’s so interesting about your family, Jan. I think it was the same with many South Carolinians — racial prejudice wasn’t universal, especially when it came down to the person-to-person level. Here is another link I found really interesting (and infuriating!) about discrimination in the parks. It is an exhibit done by the parks with some nice photos. https://www.arcgis.com/apps/MapJournal/index.html?appid=f7d41a2e8288446ea6bda99390b45f95
      Thanks for your comments on my blog. If you have a blog, would send me a link? I would love to read and comment on yours, too.

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  7. Dear Cynthia, thank you for posting this story which adds another plank to the sad history of segregation in our country. Like you, I never knew that parks were segregated. I'm not going to look up the history of Swope Park in Kansas City. I know that in about 1952, when I was in high school, the swimming pool there became desegregated. I can so remember that and also the argument I had with my grandmother about my going that first day to the pool. She lost; I won and I can remember the wonder of watching black youth like myself enjoy the lovely waters of the pool. Peace.

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  8. OMG that is unbelievable but we have similar horror stories about our aborigines.

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  9. Oh dear me, but that's how it was.

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  10. I cannot imagine segregation in a public park. I think as Northerners we were not subject to segregation so we don't realize how bad it was.

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