We recently visited the beautiful South Carolina City of Charleston. While our wives shopped, my friend, Nat, and I visited historical sites of which Charleston has plenty.

Many people recall that our American Civil War started in this City. The State of South Carolina decided to withdraw from the Union. The U.S. Army tried to maintain control of the strategic port entrance by taking over Fort Sumter. The battle that ensued was brief,  the U.S. Army surrendered and our nation began its bloody four year Civil War.

Today, the National Park Service has a great narrated boat ride and tour of the Fort. We were fortunate to be on the last tour of the day and watched them lower the flag. The tour and the story it tells is a must for anyone interested in our country’s history. Friends know I have been a Civil War buff my whole life, so this was great!

But even more impressive and much more educational, for me, was our tour of the Old Slave Mart Museum on Chalmers Street. We all think we know the story of slavery in our country,  the terrible injustices that it brought and its role in the Civil War. The Slave Mart Museum focuses on the part Charleston played in this and looks at the slave trade as a business. It covers the human tragedies, the splitting of families and babies from their mothers, many of which we have read about or seen in movies or on television. It was a number of the other lesser known facts that I found equally compelling, such as:

-10% of African slaves were transported to the U.S.; the rest to Central and S. America

-40% of slaves entering the U.S. came through Charleston

-In 1860, before the Civil War, over 60% of S, Carolina residents were enslaved blacks

-Crops produced by slaves were sold to Europe which sold guns to Africa for slaves

-By 1808 foreign slave trade was abolished in S. Carolina in favor of the domestic trade

-On the slave market, a young male or female might bring $1,000 ($30,000 today) and someone my age would $50! Values were based on life expectancy and ability to work.

Overall, an incredible learning experience that everyone who is interested in black studies, the Civil War or understanding the whole history and impact of slavery would benefit from visiting. The Slave Mart Museum covers the human side but also the immense business that was slavery.