Press Releases

New Digital Exhibition Will Highlight the History of Black- and Immigrant-owned Businesses on Morris Street

preservation-admin , April 6, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 6, 2021
Victoria (Futrell) Bock | 216.544.0837 | vfutrell@preservationsociety.org

CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA – The Preservation Society of Charleston is excited to announce the launch of the Morris Street Business District Project, a digital exhibition that highlights the rich and diverse history of Morris Street and the people who shaped it over the course of nearly two centuries. Years in the making, this in-depth research project was initiated by the Preservation Society’s Thomas Mayhem Pinckney Alliance in partnership with the College of Charleston’s Lowcountry Digital History Initiative. The Thomas Mayhem Pickney Alliance is a task force established in 2013 to identify, recognize, and preserve places representative of the contributions of African Americans to the built environment of the Lowcountry.

Though a geographically small part of the Charleston peninsula, Morris Street historically contained one of the highest concentrations of Black-owned and operated businesses, offices, and residences in the city, as well as numerous houses of worship. Notably, this district was also home to a thriving immigrant community, including German grocers, Irish laborers, Chinese businessmen, and Russian-Jewish merchants. The intersections of these diverse communities make the Morris Street Business District an important area of study to understand Charleston’s complex social, cultural, economic, and racial history.

“Every part of our beautiful city was shaped in some way by the lives and work of black Charlestonians, but none more than Morris Street. It was the thriving commercial and cultural heart of a community that refused to be left on the margins of a segregated city, and so created an independent center of urban vitality and architectural expression.”
– Nathaniel Robert Walker, Associate Professor of Architectural History at the College of Charleston

The digital exhibit includes an online storyboard and an interactive map highlighting the histories of more than 20 individual sites located along Morris Street and its surrounding neighborhoods. As Charleston continues to change at an increasingly rapid pace, it is critical to capture our city’s under-told stories before it is too late. The Morris Street Business District Project is an important initiative of the Preservation Society that helps enrich our collective knowledge of Charleston’s past and guides us to be better advocates for sustaining its vibrant and diverse communities into the future.

For more information on the Morris Street Business District or to view the free, online exhibition via the Lowcountry Digital History Initiative, visit http://ldhi.library.cofc.edu/exhibits/show/msbd

Additional quotes from our partners:
“The Morris Street Business District exhibition really captures LDHI’s mission to share unknown and underrepresented Lowcountry history with the public. From race and gender to class and labor, LDHI promotes awareness of our region’s diverse histories, and the Morris Street Business District Project touches on all of these themes. While Charleston is known for its historic architectural charm, LDHI’s partnership with the Preservation Society of Charleston helps promotes awareness of the people behind the architecture, the Charlestonians who shaped and reshaped the physical and cultural landscape of the city.”
– Leah Worthington, Digital Projects Librarian for the College of Charleston, Co-Director of the Lowcountry Digital History Initiative and Associate Director of the Lowcountry Digital Library

“The primary goal of the Morris Street Business District project is to inform the community. Our children will not know these stories personally, so it’s important that we go after this information now, because we have already lost so many people of the previous generation that knew it. We can’t lose our history; once it’s lost you can’t regain it.”
– Julia-Ellen Craft Davis, Former President of the Charleston Branch of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, founding member of the Thomas Mayhem Pinckney Alliance

About the Preservation Society of Charleston: Founded in 1920, the Preservation Society of Charleston (PSC) is the oldest grassroots preservation organization in the nation. The Society is more resilient than ever as it enters its second century of recognizing, protecting, and advocating for the Lowcountry’s historic places, while serving as a strong advocacy leader for citizens concerned about preserving Charleston’s distinctive character, quality of life, and diverse neighborhoods. For more information on the Preservation Society of Charleston, please visit www.preservationsociety.org

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