Saturday, February 15, 2014

Denmark Vesey (born Telemaque)

Update: In June 2015 Emanuel AME, the church discussed in this post, was attacked by a white supremacist who killed nine people in an act of terrorism, on the 193rd anniversary of Vesey's uprising.

This essay, written purely as an amateur hobby, has grown unexpectedly popular as an historical resource. So, I've continued to edit and add pertinent information over time for any who may find it useful. Countless real historians have written far better material than I have here; I wrote this instead as a response to the surprising lack of casual popular knowledge, especially in Charleston. Specifically, I felt important aspects of his legacy weren't often being linked or given crucial context in the blogs and newspapers that the everyday person is most likely to read. Most commonly misunderstood is this: because of the silence of 1820s press and vigorous erasure of Vesey's legacy by panicked authorities, one cannot find out much for sure about the man himself. One must shift one's thinking and approach official historic sources just as one might regard the state-run news in some totalitarian country far away-- because for many, that's just what Charleston was.

Black Charlestonian Denmark Vesey (born Telemaque) was hanged at dawn in 1822, accused of organizing and very nearly executing what would have been the largest slave revolt in US history. His story is still controversial today, and I've chosen him as my latest subject for a portrait drawing for Black History Month:

Denmark Vesey by Ciana Pullen
Denmark Vesey, by Ciana Pullen, 2014. Charcoal, 14 x 17." Drawn entirely from imagination. You may reproduce this image for noncommercial purposes only, and you must include easily visible accreditation (i.e. my name) and a link back to this site. [Image description follows at the end of this post.]

He was born in St. Thomas or possibly Africa in 1767 and spent his youth enslaved on the island until one day in 1781, at age 14, when he was pulled aside and marched at gunpoint with 300 other enslaved people to the slave ship of Captain Joseph Vesey.

Vesey sold Telemaque for hard labor on a sugar-cane plantation in French Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), but his purchaser forced Vesey to take the boy back when they discovered his epilleptic fits (possibly faked, as they were never known to recur). Vesey, then 34 years old, enjoyed his company, and possibly because his own parents had died when he was the boy's age, he acted as both master and guardian for Telemaque (who was appropriately named for the son of seafaring explorer Odysseus). He made Telemaque his personal assistant and interpreter for the next three years on the ship, teaching him to read and write.

Captain Vesey, who was born in Bermuda, had previously purchased land in Charleston and fought with the rebelling Carolinian Patriots in the American Revolution. Recognized as a courageous fighter whose expertise of the coastline allowed for clandestine navigation, Capt. Vesey would likely have shared these stories with Telemaque. As shocking as Telemaque's 1822 trial for insurrection would later be, one must remember that in 1781-3 he was entering an American society where just a few short years before, ordinary men, women and children had openly engaged in guerrilla warfare to overthrow their colonial overlords, in which many Black people had participated.

Captain Vesey settled in Charleston, SC, in 1783, which was then a major port for the slave trade, to become a ship chandler and slave broker. By this time Telemaque was called Denmark Vesey.

Urban slave life in Charleston was nothing like plantation life or even slavery in other Southern cities. The 1820 Census listed only 11,654 White people in the City, outnumbered by 12,652 enslaved and 1,475 free Black people, and surrounded by many tens of thousands of rural plantation slaves. A mere 8-9% of those White people controlled Charleston's wealth and political power. By Vesey's arrival a state of fear and constant subjugation of Black people had gripped the city for nearly a century. Awareness of how tenuous their control really was, only grew in light of the Haitian Revolution in 1791, which resulted from a massive successful slave revolt. The ensuing Black rule in Haiti shook the slave-owning world. 

Enslaved Black people and White people lived in close quarters, as crowded narrow plots of land contained mansions or smaller rowhouses for "the Family" of White people with slave quarters standing separately in the back. Strict codes  of behavior for "house slaves" ensured the two never intermingled, and that a free neighborhood could double as a police state for Black people.

Aiken-Rhett slave quarters exterior
The exterior of the Aiken-Rhett House slave quarters, built 1820. An unusually "state of the art" building for the grand house, its arrangement is nonetheless customary for tightly packed, highly regimented urban slave dwellings. Living quarters were on the second floor; kitchen and washrooms were ground floor. [Image shows a long two-story grey stucco building with forest green windows and shutters lining it like a prison]. Photo via.

Aiken-Rhett House slave quarters interior
The interior of the bare-bones Aiken-Rhett House slave quarters (or barracks, really). People would have been cram-packed into these rooms. Privacy was scarce. Photo via.
For instance, regulations for enslaved Black people included strict curfews and laws against walking with a cane unless infirm, wearing nice clothes in public, playing an instrument, smoking, cursing, dancing without city council or owners' approval, or making any "joyful demonstration." Slaves were often sent out to workhouses for "corrections," where people were forced to work a treadmill, placed in irons or whipped, a service for which the slave-owner paid $0.25.

Black man with scars from whipping
A man in a historic photograph reveals the scars on his back from whipping. Photo via.

Charleston slave auction
Illustration of a slave auction in Charleston (I think I recognize this street corner as a modern day bus stop). [Historic illustration shows the turmoil of a crowded auction and a Black family and White auctioneer on a platform on the sidewalk].
Some owners "hired out" their enslaved skilled workers and craftsmen, who were either rented directly from their owners by other free people and allowed, sometimes, to live independently while working these jobs, or enslaved skilled workers who essentially paid to lease their own bodies or time from their "masters" and earned their own money temporarily. The second practice, called "self-hire," was swiftly outlawed as subversive, but widely practiced anyway. So convenient did slave owners find the practice, "badge laws" were enacted to regulate it by issuing heavily taxed metal tags to self-hirers. (Today the surviving metal badges are subject to a controversial high-priced private commodities trade, as local artist Ben Sivells stopped by to inform me while I drew Vesey's portrait at the Farmer's Market.) Other enslaved people ran the affairs of a part of their "master's" property or "trust," effectively living independently, though this was also illegal. This was sometimes practiced by free Black people who were forced to hold friends or family nominally as slaves, even husbands and wives, constituting a substantial minority of the enslaved people owned by wealthy free Black people.

Joseph Vesey allowed Denmark to practice self-hire as a carpenter until November 9, 1799, when Denmark won $1500 in a street lottery and bought his freedom. I repeat, he won $1500 in a street lottery and bought his freedom.

Map of Charleston 1849
Map of Charleston, 1849. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Vesey set up his own business as a carpenter, which would become enormously successful with a large Black clientele, and moved to an area of the Charleston Peninsula called the Neck. In those days Boundary Street (modern day Calhoun) was the official City Limits, but people had begun settling north of Boundary anyway. With official police and patrol jurisdiction north of Boundary patchy and unsure, and with abundant cheap land in the reputedly lawless new area, working class White people, free Black people and some Native American people began settling there in large numbers. White citizens soon formed their own night patrol in parts of the Neck.

Denmark Vesey House
The Denmark Vesey House, 56 Bull Street (near the Coming Street neighborhood of free Black residents), was identified in the 1970s and is still listed as a historic landmark. However in the 1980s archivists found it was built in the 1830s-50s and likely five houses down from his rented home, which is probably demolished. Local real estate listings still call these types of houses, often 400-800 square feet, "freedman cottages." Image via Wikipedia. [Image description: Small white house on a tiny shaded lot with black shutters and a front porch with small Greek columns. Entire building is the shape of a giant clapboard Lego.]
By the late 1700s officials had complained of urban enslaved people "going myrtle berry picking" in the Neck, or trading rum and goods with nearby rural enslaved people. Enslaved people who escaped from the City would often go there to pass themselves off as free, particularly if they were literate or skilled. Hired out and self-hired slaves were usually forced to reside independently in the City wherever they could find spare space, above garages or in unused corners of sheds. But in the Neck they could build illicit (and illegal) tenements and shacks.

Agostino Brunias, "Free Women of Color with their Children and Servants in a Landscape," c.
1764-1796. Image via Wikipedia. Though this depicts a Caribbean scene, the wealthiest class of free Charlestonians of color in Vesey's time were generally slave-holding Mulatto people like the women depicted. Like the men shown above, male slaves of prominent White families wore distinctive "liveries" or uniforms, the perceived attractiveness of which were often recalled fondly by Confederate sympathizers after the Civil War as one of many super-fun privileges of being a slave (yes, really).

Free Black and Brown (as "mulatto" or biracial people were then called) people lived in nearly segregated pockets of the Neck, some near Coming Street and others on the blocks north of Meeting & Boundary. They sought both to distance themselves socially and legally from slaves (and independent slave tenement neighborhoods). They were also kept their distance from the White working class, who simultaneously resented slaves for undercutting their employment and wages, and resented free Black people. Many White Charlestonians complained that "Negro" meant "Slave," thus "free Negroes" were an offensive oxymoron. Since most manumissions resulted from children of interracial sex and rape, three fourths of all free colored people were Brown. They comprised the great majority of comparatively well-to-do free colored property owners. The wealthiest of them were slaveholders. Exclusively Brown societies were created to provide insurance, professional services, and support for widows similar to a 20th century union. Meanwhile the excluded free Black people generally struggled to make ends meet, forming their own societies in later decades.

Nancy Weston, a mulatta Charlestonian, was photographed a few decades after Vesey's lifetime but her story is nonetheless representative of the lives of free Brown Charlestonians in Vesey's community. Photo via MulattoDiaries, where a commenter identifying as a descendent of Nancy's owners fills in the details. She was the child of a female slave and the Weston plantation owner, and had a child with the Grimke plantation owner. Grimke willed her to be enslaved in name only to his son Montague, the white half-brother to Nancy's own Brown sons. Because of complicated and often difficult manumission laws, many Black and Brown people like Nancy were held in nominal slavery by friends, family and benevolent owners. They had no legal rights and could be seized and sold elsewhere, for instance, to pay their owner's debts. She had been the mistress of a plantation, but Montague sold it and bought Nancy a house on Coming Street in Vesey's neighborhood, where she lived in poverty taking in washing. Montague then attempted to enslave Nancy's sons, who resisted and were beaten in the workhouse while Nancy, a slave, had no legal recourse. Legal claims to freedom could be disputed, with some claims (certified born to a White woman or born to two free Black people) stronger than others, creating a constant threat of instability for free Black people. At some point, for instance, Vesey had children, and though fathered by a free man with various enslaved women, they had a weak claim to freedom and remained enslaved. When Nancy's son attempted to stay at her house to recuperate from an injury and Nancy refused to send him back to work, Montague sent Nancy to a workhouse for corrections. She went on hunger strike until his friends persuaded him to have her released. Though laws of her era forbade educating nonwhite people (I'll get to that later) she taught her boys at night in secret, as did many Black and mulatto people. Nancy's granddaughter was Angelina Weld Grimke, the famous writer and abolitionist.

A "free badge," kept by free Black and Brown Charlestonians just like self-hire slave badges. Like South African Apartheid, Charleston was a "papers, please" police state for all Black people; punishments for being stopped without one's badge were severe. Photo via.
African religions were often incorporated into Christian establishments, except conjurers / physicians. They practiced in secret, particularly in the Neck and rural areas, and were widely sought after by Black Charlestonians. Vesey's acquaintance (and later co-conspirator) "Gullah Jack," was an influential conjurer born in Angola who many believed had occult powers and immunity to white men's bullets. ("But," he would later say, "I am not immune to the treachery of my own race.") Vesey himself, however, was Presbyterian as late as 1816. Most religious Black people attended large white-run churches, which emphasized the heavenly rewards of obedience to their Black congregations. But by the late 1700s Christian racial tensions were growing.

In 1787 in Philadelphia, Black members of the local Methodist church had grown so resentful of their unkind treatment and special restrictions that they left to form the first Free African Society and African Methodist Episcopal denomination. Soon after, Black members of a Charleston Methodist church chafed under White leaders who revoked their privileges to oversee their own church trials, hold their own quarterly conference, and manage their own collections. When White leaders disputed rights to the Black burial grounds and built a hearse house there, it was the last straw.

Morris Brown
Rev. Morris Brown. [Image shows a formal drawn or engraved portrait of a formally dressed balding Black man resembling Benjamin Franklin]. Image Credit: The Library Company of Philadelphia via PBS
Rev. Morris Brown and 1400 followers, both enslaved and free, founded a new African Methodist Episcopal church in 1791 near Hampstead (near Reid and Hanover Streets in the Neck). Two other Charlestonian churches arose under the Free African Society and the three were named the "Bethel Circuit". By 1817 Vessey had become involved as one of several founders and leaders of the Hampstead AME church. In the Free African Society people had a chance to study religion as a salvation from slavery rather than a reward for it and to conduct their own affairs as an independent community.

As free Black people gained a foothold in these various areas of society, White resentment turned to panic. Though free Black people were legally "denizens," not "citizens" Charleston's free Black codes were not as strict as in other states, attracting free Black immigrants from across the South. An 1800 law required only that a slave be able to support him/herself to be eligible for freedom (though I'm unsure how this worked in practice). But in 1820 a bill was passed that prohibited manumission (freeing of slaves) except by legislative decree (i.e. owners couldn't free slaves without the assembly's approval). Out-of-state free Black people were prohibited from immigrating on punishment of enslavement, and the crossing of state lines by free Black people was curtailed.

Fearful White people found an enemy in the Bethel Circuit. A law was passed forbidding any assembly or "mental instruction" of Black people, free or enslaved, without a White person present to supervise. In 1817, 469 Black people were arrested for "disorderly conduct" in one AME church, and in 1818 140 members of Vesey's church, including Rev. Brown and other ministers, were arrested for violating the supervision law. Authorities shut down his Hampstead church again in 1820. Vesey, long struggling with White brutality toward his community, was livid.

Though details are scant, over his years in Charleston Vesey had had several children with more than one wife, all of them enslaved. According to a NY Times article he attempted to purchase his wife from her "owner" at the time he won the lottery and purchased his own freedom, but the owner refused to sell. Following the harassment of his church, witnesses later alleged, Vesey said he wanted to "see them free." They alleged that starting December 1821 Vesey began planning the largest slave uprising in US history, which would take place Bastille Day (July 14) 1822.

[You'll want to click below to keep reading....]

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

James Van Der Zee photos and the portrait I drew from them

James van der Zee set up his famous photograhy studio in his sister's music conservatory in Harlem in 1911. Just as the Harlem Renaissance was growing into a major movement he was able to capture a slice of life of ordinary middle class families, local figures, celebrities and artists with a disarming warmth and insider's perspective (Van Der Zee himself was a musician and father as well, and long-time Harlem resident). Here is a portrait I drew based on one of his family photographs:
Ciana Pullen, Anonymous Man drawn from a photo by James Van Der Zee
Ciana Pullen, Anonymous Man drawn from a photo by James Van Der Zee, charcoal on paper. [Image description: Realistic black and white sketch of the head and shoulders of a young Black man wearing a formal early 20th century military coat, leather sash, and medal chains. He is centered on a white background and diffuse light enters from the left. The marks making up the dark coat dissolve toward the bottom right of the image.]

James Van Der Zee, Garveyite Family, Harlem, 1924.
James Van Der Zee, Garveyite Family, Harlem, 1924. This is the image I used to draw the man above. [Image description: 1920s black and white studio photo of a middle aged Black woman sitting in a formal dress and pearls, a young Black man in a military uniform standing on the left with his hand on her shoulder, and a young boy, maybe eight, in a sailor suit, standing to the right. A small dog, possibly a prop, stands at the boy's heels. The backdrop makes them appear to be in a grand house with huge stately windows, a carved archway, and 18th century murals or wallpaper depicting a forested landscape. A real vase sits on a dark shining wooden desk behind them. Each has a serious but pleasant facial expression.]

A "Garveyite" family would have been followers of Marcus Garvey, an enormously influential Black intellectual of the early 20th century who promoted the self-advancement and economic empowerment of Blacks worldwide as well as a return to ancestral lands and culture, such as Pan-Africanism and Black Nationalism. In 1919, shortly before the above photo would have been taken, Garvey's newspaper Negro World was published from New York, mouthpiece of his organization UNIA, which at that point had around two million members. He was a contemporary, and frequent rival, of W. E. B. Du Bois.

Portrait of James Van Der Zee
Portrait of James Van Der Zee. I don't know who took this photograph. [Image description: close-cropped face of an older Black man with short grey hair, large glasses and a suit.]

Portrait of a Band Leader, by James Van Der Zee
Portrait of a Band Leader, by James Van Der Zee. [Image description: A young boyish-looking Black man in a dark suit, light shirt and tie, and pocket square, stands, feet apart, in front of a backdrop holding a conductor's baton horizontally across his thighs, one hand on each end. His face points slightly down, his gaze is up and out of frame to the right. He wears close-cropped waved hair.]

Portrait of a Couple, by James Van Der Zee
Portrait of a couple, by James Van Der Zee. [Image description: full-length black and white studio portrait of a youngish middle aged Black couple in formal winter clothes. The woman stands on the left in a dark cloche hat and dark knee-length coat with a huge fur collar and cuffs that matches her hat and heels. She holds a purse and gloves and holds one foot forward, lifted elegantly. The man stands with his shoulder behind her and to the right in the same position but with his hand on a walking cane. He wears a dark suit and shoes with grey spats, a white shirt and dark necktie, a long dark overcoat, and a light fedora with dark hat-band. They appear to be in front of a background showing a snow-covered tree-lined lane in a park.]

Portrait of a Family, by James Van Der Zee.
Portrait of a Family, by James Van Der Zee. [Image description: Black and white studio photo of a youngish Black woman (I'll call her the mother) and two children, probably two and four, sitting in a group so that their faces form a line from bottom left to top right. The smallest child throws his or her arms around the mother's neck. They all smile placidly. The mother wears a low bun to the side and a plain mid-toned long-sleeved dress; the children wear striped puffy dresses with big collars, and their hair is in tiny short lolly-pop curls.]

Portrait of a Woman by James Van Der Zee, 1929.
Portrait of a woman by James Van Der Zee, 1929. [Image description: Sepia toned studio photo of a youngish Black woman from the knees up in formal 1920s top and skirt with finger waved bob and bangs. She sits at a woman's carved wood writing desk either reading or writing on some papers or a periodical in front of her. A vase of roses sits on the desk beside her. Her free hand reaches up to loosely brush her neck.]

Portrait of a woman by James Van Der Zee.
Portrait of a woman by James Van Der Zee. [Image Description: Black and white full-lenth studio photo of a young Black woman in a formal ruffled flapper dress and finger waved bob, holding flowers and sitting in a formal chair in front of a backdrop.

Van Der Zee was successful throughout the 1910s-40s, but by the 1960s he had become extremely poor as personal cameras became popular and studio portraits were no longer in demand. In the 1970s and 80s, however, various museum and leaders in the arts staged shows of his photographs and his work gained renewed interest. He received a Living Legacy Award form President Jimmy Carter, and he photographed Cicely Tyson, Bill Cosbey, and others, including Jean-Michel Basquiat:

Jean-Michel Basquiat, by James Van Der Zee, 1982.
James Van Der Zee, Jean-Michel Basquiat. 1982. I love that this still looks like the early 20th century studio portraits, and I'm sure it made a clear departure from the slick bright photography popular in the 80s. I'd love to know what the two men thought of each other. [Image: Black and white photo of Basquiat, a young Black man with shortish Medusa-like dreadlocks, sits in a large carved 1850's chair, leaning forward with his face on one hand. A Siamese cat sits on his lap. He slumps and looks out of frame, with his head at the top right and his gaze pointed at the top left of the image. His other elbow sits on the armrest and his hand dangles and fingers brush his leg. He wears a grey checked paint-spattered suit and conveys an overall restless, ethereal and dishevelled appearance.]

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Septima P. Clark

Happy Black History Month! Here is a portrait I drew from my Interesting South Carolinians series of Septima Poinsette Clark:

Septima Clark by Ciana Pullen
Ciana Pullen, Portrait of Septima Poinsette Clark, 1898 - 1987. Charcoal on paper, drawn from several different photographs and based around 1965. [Image description: realistic black and white charcoal bust portrait of an older black woman holding a pencil in mid-thought and looking abstractly outside of the left picture frame. She wears silver-tipped black cat-eye glasses, a white shirt with popped lapels, and a dark jacket or cardigan with a large fold-over collar. Her natural salt-and-pepper hair is brushed back from her large forhead and hangs in wisps at the nape of her neck. She sits leaning into the image frame from the right edge, with her head in the middle-right of the upper half of the drawing, her hand holding the pencil loosely with a bent wrist in the lower left corner. Diffused natural light illuminates her from the left, as if through a window.]

“I have a great belief in the fact that whenever there is chaos, it creates wonderful thinking. I consider chaos a gift.”

Civil rights legend Septima Poinsette Clark (1898 – 1987) began as a teacher in a small African American school on Johns Island near Charleston, SC. Because she was black she was not allowed to teach in Charleston, but while teaching in Johns Island she developed ways of using everyday materials such as Sears catalogs to teach literacy.

Across from Clark's school was a white school, where only three students attended and the teacher made $85 per week. Meanwhile Clark was teaching principal for a school of 132 black students; she made $35 per week while the other two teachers made only $25. Galvanized by this discrimination she returned to Charleston to teach at the Avery Normal Institute, helping to win a legal victory for black people to have the right to become principals at Charleston's public schools in 1920. Clark continued to fight for equality for educators and was eventually fired because of her refusal to renounce membership with the NAACP, lost her pension and was black-balled from every school in the Charleston area. So threatened were other black educators with losing their jobs that they would not even be photographed with her.

After studying with W. E. B. du Bois Clark earned a bachelor's degree in 1945 and became involved with the Highlander Folk School in rural Monteagle, TN. There she put her innovative Johns Island teaching techniques to use conducting literacy workshops across the South. Because Jim Crow laws prevented illiterate citizens from voting, Clark's short 1- and 2-week courses were designed to be taught with minimal resources, often hidden in back rooms of shops because of the threat of racial violence, with the goal of passing voting literacy tests and setting foundations for communities to further their own learning. By 1969 Clark's program helped to register over 700,000 people to vote, including Rosa Parks just months before the famous Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Clark became the first woman appointed a leadership position in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, but she would struggle with sexism from within the civil rights movement, speaking out against it and retiring from the organization in 1970. She then sued for back payment and pensions from her job with the Charleston Public School System and won, going on to serve two terms on the Charleston County School Board. She was awarded a Living Legacy Award by President Jimmy Carter in 1979.

Avery Institute
The Avery Normal Institute where Clark once taught, 19th century and today, 125 Bull Street, Charleston, near MUSC. The institute itself was a landmark historic Black learning institute and later a center of activism. Today the Avery Institute is owned by the College of Charleston and functions as a museum, archive and research center for African American history and culture. photo via.

Site of Septima Clark's home
The site of Clark's home, now demolished, on Henrietta Street in Downtown Charleston, SC., next to Francis Marion Square. Coincidentally, I park my car here in the vendor's lot for the Charleston Farmer's Market, which is where I drew the portrait of Clark and sell prints of it, and never noticed the placard until I saw it online researching this post. via perservationsociety.org.

Septima Clark
Septima Clark, via Charron & Cline, Southern Cultures. [Image description: Black and white photo of an older-middle-aged Clark in three-quarter profile, her head bowed and looking out of frame.]

Septma Clark with Freedom School attendees
Septima Clark with students in a literacy / voting workshop, via The Self-Rescuing Princess Society. [Image description: black and white snapshot of a group of older Black men and women sitting at a table looking at booklets with Clark sitting in the center speaking. They're in a plain old-fashioned room.]

Ms. Towles, Rosa Parks, Corretta Scott King, Septima Clark, Annelle Ponder
Civil Rights figures (from left to right): Ms. Towles (I Googled but could find no information on this person), Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, Septima Poinsette Clark, and Annelle Ponder (a teacher at a Freedom School in Mississippi and local field secretary for the SCLC, via God's Long Summer by Charles Marsh). Photo from the Lowcountry Digital Library, via The Self-Rescuing Princess Society. [Image desciption: A black and white snapshot of the women described, all dressed in 1960s formal attire, standing in a line smiling.]

Septima Clark by Brian Lanker
Portrait of Septima Clark, taken by Brian Lanker. The story of the photographer and this photo can be found via 37 Paddington. [Image description: Black and white artistic photo of Septima Clark's head and shoulders in profile. Her figure is lit brightly against a black background, her chin rests on the knuckle of the forefinger of her relaxed hand. She wears her white hair in three thin cornrow-type braids over her head stretching in U-shapes from ear to crown to ear, making for a clean-lined profile of her head. She appears serious with heavily lidded eyes peering down out of her upwardly tilted face, gazing straight ahead.]
A 2007 historical marker on Johns Island (a rural coastal island just outside Charleston, SC) about Clark and the Progressive Club, a civil rights era community center, via Gullah/Geechee Nation. Today you'll also see the Septima Clark Parkway running across Downtown Charleston from the bridge from West Ashley to the Ravenel Bridge to Mt. Pleasant. It's usually called "The Crosstown."