On a little swath of land on Hilton Head Island, the first instance of African-American self-governance in the United States happened months before the emancipation proclamation freed the slaves in the states under rebellion.
The town of Mitchelville was created when the confederates of Hilton Head fled the incoming Union troops, leaving their slaves to fend for themselves.
Union General Ormsby Mitchel decided to give the island’s blacks a township of their own and their first taste of freedom in the south.
The community responded with a self-governing township that lasted into the 1870’s.
Consider this: there’s a great lesson to be taken from Mitchelville as we celebrate Black History Month. There in the marshes of Beaufort County, a people considered incapable of sustaining themselves proved that given the chance they could succeed.
A lesson as valuable today as it was when it was first learned more than 150 years ago.
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