South Carolina and the Caribbean Connection

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To most, South Carolina is simply just one of the United States, 50 states, and originally was on the thirteen original colonies that declared independence from the British Crown. However, this plot of land, which extends from the Atlantic Ocean to the Appalachian Mountains, from the Savannah River to the sea, contains a rich historical pass of slavery, trade, cultivation and foreign influence which molded the beginnings of what we Americans know as South Carolina today. Today, South Carolina is ranked thirty-ninths for the total median income out of all fifty states, but in the early part of the 18th century was the most affluent colony. What made South Carolina so successful? Slavery and the West Indies. The West Indies shaped the early colony of South Carolina, whether it was everyday cultural patterns of the colonists and slaves or their socio-economic status, strong ties and resemblances are seen with the Caribbean’s citizen’s and economy. Slavery played a large role in South Carolina society, the most influential members of society owned and used slaves, and the overall economic status was based off of that slave work. In South Carolina, slaves from both India and Africa were used, however, the more dominant slave race was definitely those of African decent. They were believed to possess specific qualities such as familiarity with rice cultivation, which became the staple crop of South Carolina. They also had lived in malicious climates for centuries, and had developed the immunity of malaria. These distinctive skills and strengths suited them in Carolina lowlands, contributing greatly to their positive effect on the South Carolina colony. Peter Wood, American historian and author of Black Majority: Negroes in Colonial South Carolina from 1670 through the Stono Rebellion, concisely sums up the role slaves played in South Carolina when he states “Negroes Played a significant and often determinative part in the evolution of the colony” (Wood, XVII). The following paragraphs explore South Carolina from the 1670’s to the 1740’s and examine the elements of Caribbean influence seen throughout its early history and the developmental parallels between other Caribbean colonies.

In 1670 on the British island of Barbados, there were serious overpopulation problems, these problems eventually led to the colonization of South Carolina. Barbados was first settled in 1627, and for the following decade followed the economic pattern of the other British colonies, Bermuda and Virginia, by producing tobacco. By the end of the 1630’s Barbados had established itself as a successful producer for the English market, resulting in the high demand for Barbados land, as inhabitants covered all arable land on the island. It was in the mid-1640’s that the true staple crop of Barbados was introduced, sugar. The sugar revolution not only brought an abundance of wealth to Barbados but “By the early 1650’s… Barbados had achieved a population density greater than any comparable area in the English-speaking world” (Greene, 195). Sugar production required intensive labor, and as labor needs increased, so did the use of the more economical and reliable source of labor – African slaves. Barbados exemplified the first large-scale use of slavery and non-European labor of any English colony. The island was “the richest, most highly developed, most populous and most congested English colony in America… with 50,000 inhabitants, including 30,000 negroes,” unfortunately Barbados was just 166 sq, miles (Journal Of Caribbean History XVI, 1982). With such overpopulation, a substantial emigration began to occur. This exodus from Barbados made-up the wave of colonists of all socioeconomic statuses that traveled to the Carolinas. In 1663 King Charles II granted the land of the Carolinas to eight nobles, also know as the Lords Proprietor, to build the Carolina Colony. These proprietors were extremely commercial, as they wished to gain quick profits in this new...
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