Black History: Praise House

A praise house on Saint Helena Island.
A praise house on Saint Helena Island.

By Dawn Baker - email | bio

SAINT HELENA ISLAND, SC (WTOC) - The Coastal Empire and Low Country are filled with many beautiful places that are rich in history. As we celebrate Black History Month, we'll be taking you on a tour of many places you've seen before, but most of us don't even know the significant events in history that happened right here in our backyards.

We begin in the Low Country on beautiful Saint Helena Island.

Even centuries ago, the South Carolina Low Country was a beautiful place with its majestic trees and lush marshes, but in the heart of this beautiful land was something very ugly, slavery.

The South Carolina slave traders transported more slaves into the continent than any other group of people. The records say about 3/4 of all Africans that were brought to this continent came through the ports of Charleston and the Sea Islands.

St. Helena Island is only 18 miles long and five miles wide, yet there were 55 plantations.

"These were some of your largest working plantations that generated massive wealth for the slave owners," explains Kitty Green, owner of The Gullah-N-Geechie Mahn Tours.

Nearly 150 years after the slaves were freed, a little wooden shack still stands. It might not look like much, but it became a powerful symbol and key to shaping the minds and hearts of the slaves.

It's known as a praise house and you could find one on every major plantation. The slave masters used them as a way of introducing Christianity to the slaves.

"All Africans were not afforded the opportunity to worship. The slave masters appointed an African that they felt they could control and to give whatever little Christianity that was given to them in a distorted fashion to control them. Say for instance, slave obey your master. If you violated your relationship with the master, then of course you couldn't go to heaven. You had sinned", says Kitty.

Those messages were used to control the slaves for many years. The leaders who the masters picked to spread the word, became very powerful in the slave community. They decided what positions the slaves held on the plantations, making the praise house an even more powerful symbol of life for those living in bondage.

To learn more about the Praise House and history throughout the Low Country, go to and remember all month on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, we'll feature more landmarks in Black History from throughout our area.