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Definition: South Carolina from Collins English Dictionary


1 a state of the southeastern US, on the Atlantic: the first state to secede from the Union in 1860; consists largely of low-lying coastal plains, rising in the northwest to the Blue Ridge Mountains; the largest US textile producer. Capital: Columbia. Pop: 4 147 152 (2003 est). Area: 78 282 sq km (30 225 sq miles) Abbreviation and zip code: SC

Summary Article: South Carolina
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

State in eastern USA, bordered to the north and northeast by North Carolina, to the south and west by Georgia, and to the southeast by the Atlantic Ocean; area 77,982 sq km/30,109 sq mi; population (2010) 4,625,364; capital and largest city Columbia. South Carolina is the smallest state of the Deep South region, and is roughly triangular in shape, with the Savannah River forming much of the state boundary with Georgia. The Blue Ridge Mountains rise in the northwest, and there are numerous sea islands along the subtropical coastline. Service industries, particularly tourism, form the basis of South Carolina's economy, but farming, fishing, wood processing, and the manufacture of chemicals and textiles are also important. The state is a leading producer of tobacco in the USA. Columbia is situated in the central industrial heartland. Other major cities include the seaport of Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Rock Hill, and the former textile centres of Greenville and Spartanburg in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Settled as an English colony from 1670, the name Carolina derives from the Latin for Charles, after King Charles I; South was added when the colony was divided into north and south in 1712. One of the original Thirteen Colonies, South Carolina was also one of the original US plantation states, associated with slavery. South Carolina's first constitution was drafted in 1776, and it was admitted to the Union in 1788, becoming the 8th state.

Physical South Carolina is physically diverse, with three main areas of land: the Atlantic Coastal Plain in the east; an extensive upland interior, the Piedmont; and the Blue Ridge Mountains in the upper northwest corner of the state.

Extending for 299 km/187 mi, the Atlantic coastline has firm, sandy beaches between North Carolina and Winyah Bay, but then becomes raggedly indented with deep coastal inlets and extensive areas of marshland south of Georgetown. The Santee River forms the largest delta and there are many other wide bays and estuaries. Lying along the coast are a series of fertile sea islands, including the Isle of Palms, Sullivan's Island, Kiawah Island, Edisto Island, Parris Island, St Helena Island, and Hilton Head Island. The climate in this region, known as the ‘Low Country’, is subtropical, allowing trees such as the palmetto (the state symbol), magnolia, and yucca to flourish. Spanish moss hangs from live oak and cypress trees, and dwarf white honeysuckle and sweet bay shrubs cover the ground. Wildlife in the swampy conservation areas, which stretch far inland, includes giant turtles, alligators, blue herons, egrets, and bald eagles.

The central Atlantic Coastal Plain is covered by a forested area known as the Pine Barrens, and a range of sand hills lie to the south. At the Fall Line, where the upland Piedmont meets the Atlantic Coastal Plain, there are numerous waterfalls as rivers flow rapidly southeast towards the coast.

Rolling, and covering much of northwest South Carolina, the Piedmont is known as the ‘Up Country’. The region has a cooler climate than the Coastal Plain and is densely forested, with oaks, pine, and red maple providing a habitat for white-tailed deer, wildcats, and fox squirrels. The far northwest corner of the state is occupied by the Blue Ridge Mountains, where the state's highest peak, Sassafras Mountain, rises to 1,085 m/3,560 ft.

South Carolina has an abundant annual rainfall and water supply, and is well drained by rivers, of which the Savannah is the smallest and the fast-flowing Santee the largest. Other major rivers include the Pee Dee in the east, and the Ashley, Cooper, Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto rivers, which drain the Atlantic Coastal Plain on their way to the ocean. Although South Carolina has no significant natural lakes, there are three main reservoirs; Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie on the eastern Coastal Plain and Lake Murray in the upland northwest.

South Carolina is almost two-thirds forested, with two national forests: the 101,000-ha/250,000-acre Francis Marion National Forest, near Myrtle Beach; and Sumter National Forest in the northwest. The Congaree Swamp National Monument preserves 8,888 ha/22,000 acres of historic swamp on a floodplain, providing scientists with prime habitat for the study of biodiversity.

Features South Carolina's colonial heritage is well preserved, making it a popular tourist destination. Charleston has elegant Georgian Palladian and Greek Revival architecture, and quiet, residential, cobblestone streets. The Old Exchange Building is considered one of the USA's most significant colonial buildings, and the Charleston Museum, founded in 1773, is the oldest public museum in the USA. The state park of Charles Towne Landing, near Charleston, features a replica of a 17th-century colonial trading ship and commemorates the first English settlers, who arrived in 1670.

South Carolina has more battlefields than any other state, and many are open to public view, including the Cowpens National Battlefield and Kings Mountain National Military Park, both notable for British defeats; Fort Moultrie, on Sullivan's Island, marks another historic American victory. Fort Sumter, in Charleston Harbor, is where the first shots of the American Civil War were fired in 1861. Patriots Point on Charleston Harbor contains the world's largest naval and maritime museum.

Many of South Carolina's original plantations survive as museums, including Hampton Plantation state park and Hopsewee Plantation, near Charleston. In Boone Hall Plantation (1681), nine brick slave-cabin quarters have survived, dating from the mid-18th century. Cypress Gardens, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens (1686), and Middleton Place Gardens (1741) near Charleston provide beautifully preserved examples of 18th-century landscaping and leisurely plantation life. The Rice Museum at Georgetown documents the rise and fall of rice plantation culture and society.

On St Helena Island, the Penn Center District is a National Historic Landmark, steeped in the history of slave emancipation and African-American educational and cultural projects. The district includes the Gullah Institute, a school founded in 1865 for freed slaves in the South. Nearby on Edisto Island lies one of the oldest American Indian settlements in South Carolina, where a shell mound on the beach marks an ancient American Indian burial ground or ceremonial site.

The Grand Strand resort area contains 89 km/55 mi of beach, including Huntington Beach and Myrtle Beach state parks.

Culture South Carolina has a distinctive ‘heritage’ culture, with many museums, relics, and centres for education and traditional arts and crafts. Organizations such as the Sons and Daughters of Confederate Veterans, and the South Carolina Heritage Coalition, campaigned for the right to a Confederate Flag, which aroused controversy. As a strongly agrarian state, South Carolina has a pronounced rural folk heritage culture that finds expression in numerous county fairs, such as the Lexington Peach Festival. The state is renowned for its fresh local seafood, including regional dishes such as she-crab soup.

African-American and gullah culture in the area is also important; gullah is an Afro-English dialect still spoken by some of the descendants of the first plantation slaves, particularly on St Helena Island. Their culture is reflected in regional cooking styles and crafts, such as sweetgrass basketry weaving. The Penn Center on St Helena Island sponsors an annual Gullah Festival in May, with music, arts, dance, and storytelling.

American Indian peoples of South Carolina – the Chicora, Chicora Waccamaw, Edisto, Pee Dee, Santee, and Catawba – hold cultural activities such as powwows; the Catawba have a cultural festival, Yap Ye Iswa, in the autumn.

Charleston is home to a symphony orchestra, two ballet companies, and several theatre companies. The annual spring Spoleto Festival, founded in 1977 by the Italian-US composer Gian Carlo Menotti, runs for 17 days and attracts many international artists. Brookgreen Gardens, started in 1931 on four former rice plantations, contains the largest outdoor collection of US sculpture.

South Carolina is an important centre for thoroughbred horse breeding and the annual Carolina Cup steeplechase is a major US horse racing and social event, nicknamed ‘South Carolina's biggest outdoor cocktail party’. Outdoor, sporting, and recreational activities play an important role in a ‘Sunbelt’ lifestyle, and include boating, fishing, sailing, windsurfing, scuba diving, kayaking, and canoeing. The state is known particularly for its golf courses, particularly at Myrtle Beach and the resort islands of Hilton Head and Kiawah. Though South Carolina has no professional sports teams, the state is represented in the National Football League by the Carolina Panthers, based in North Carolina. College sports are also important at universities such as the University of South Carolina and Clemson University.

GovernmentSouth Carolina's state constitution South Carolina's state constitution differs from those of other states and the federal government because of its emphasis on the separation of powers doctrine. The constitution was adopted in 1895, with six earlier versions existing between 1776 and 1868. The present version has been frequently amended. A constitutional amendment must be approved by two-thirds of each house in the legislature, then approved by voters in an election, and then approved again by a majority of each house.

Structure of state government South Carolina's legislature, the General Assembly, has a Senate with 46 members, serving two-year terms, and a House of Representatives with 124 members, serving four-year terms. The state sends two senators and seven representatives to the US Congress, and has nine electoral votes in presidential elections.

Like its southern neighbours, the state was solidly Democrat after Reconstruction, but since 1964 it has favoured Republican candidates in every US presidential election, with the exception of 1976. The Republicans are now the dominant party in the state.

The governor of South Carolina is elected to a four-year term and may serve no more than two consecutive terms. Republican Nikki Haley took the governorship in January 2011. South Carolina voters directly elect the lieutenant governor, adjutant general, attorney general, commissioner of agriculture, comptroller general, secretary of state, state treasurer, and superintendent of education.

The highest court is the Supreme Court with a chief justice and four associate justices who are elected by the legislature to ten-year terms, usually chosen from among the circuit court judges. The South Carolina court of appeals has a chief judge and eight associate judges who are elected by the legislature to maximum six-year terms. The legislature elects 46 circuit court judges to a six-year term. Magistrates are appointed by the governor, and are approved by the state Senate.

There are 46 counties and 270 cities and towns. Local government consists of boards of county commissioners; county councils and similar local boards head county governments, with professional administrators often directing the county government agencies.

Economy South Carolina has a ‘Sunbelt’ economy, attracting relocating businesses and industries from all over the USA. Service industries, concentrated in the major cities, form the basis of the state's economy, and include wholesale trade and retail, private health, engineering, finance, government, and the military. Tourism makes a significant contribution to the overall economy. Industry has been focused on the production of chemicals, including plastics and pharmaceuticals; metal goods and tools; lumber, wood pulp, and paper; and textiles. Automative manufacturing, aerospace operations, and biotechnology development are becoming important activities. Granite and gold are mined in the Piedmont region, and limestone and kaolin on the Atlantic Coastal Plain.

Tobacco growing is a major activity, but soybeans, cotton, corn, greenhouse plants, and shrubs are also important products. Poultry, beef, and pigs are reared throughout the state. South Carolina has a valuable fishing industry based on a natural bounty of shrimp, crabs, clams, and oysters.

HistoryAmerican Indian peoples and early European settlement The South Carolina region was cultivated by many American Indian peoples, notably the Yamasee, Cherokee, and Catawba, before European settlement. Francisco Gordillo explored the coast for Spain in 1521, and a Spanish settlement followed in 1526 but lasted only six months. French attempts to settle the region also failed because of disease and food shortages. In the early 1600s England claimed the entire mainland of North America, using the English Crown's sponsorship of Giovanni Caboto's North American coastal expeditions in 1497 as justification. Charles I gave the area, known then as Carolana, to Robert Heath in 1629, but English settlement did not begin until after 1663, when Charles II awarded eight of his supporters territories in Carolana for their loyalty during the English Civil War. The name Carolana was later changed to Carolina.

English settlers arrived at Albemarle Point, near what is now Charleston, in 1670 and quickly established a plantation economy modelled on the English colony of Barbados in the Caribbean. Large numbers of West African slaves, mainly from Sierra Leone, were brought in as labour, and much of the success of the early plantations derived from their farming skills. Rice, cotton, indigo, and other crops were grown. Plentiful timber, the export of deerskins, and fur trading with local American Indian peoples allowed the colony to prosper, and religious tolerance attracted nonconformist and dissenting groups fleeing persecution in England and continental Europe.

The colony quickly spread south, where Beaufort was established on Edisto Island, and inland along the Atlantic Coastal Plain. Relations with the American Indian Yamasee, however, became increasingly strained by the settlers' trading tactics. The settlers, vulnerable to both Yamasee raids and attacks from neighbouring Spanish and French colonies, grew to resent their British landlords, who offered little aid or protection.

Colonial expansion South Carolina was separated from North Carolina in 1712. Anti-British sentiment in both North and South Carolina increased, and South Carolina overthrew British rule in 1719, electing its own governor. In a move to prevent French and Spanish expansion into the British colonies, King George I purchased North Carolina from the Lords Proprietors in 1729 and made it a Crown colony, allowing South Carolina limited self-rule as a buffer state. A southern portion of South Carolina subsequently became part of the British colony of Georgia in 1732.

The 1740s and 1750s were a time of colonial expansion as German and Scots-Irish settlers moved in from Virginia and Pennsylvania to farm the upland Piedmont region. The black population of South Carolina came to vastly outnumber that of its free whites, however, because of the numbers of Africans brought in as slaves.

Independence During the 1760s, British taxes imposed on the colonies inflamed anti-British feelings. On 15 September 1775, Governor Campbell of North Carolina fled to a ship in Charles Towne harbour, effectively dissolving the royal government of South Carolina and precipitating the American Revolution in the area.

South Carolinians defeated the British at Sullivan's Island in the Battle of Fort Moultrie, later adopting the palmetto tree as their state symbol because the fort's spongy palmetto log walls harmlessly absorbed the cannonballs fired by the British. The British succeeded in capturing Charleston in May 1780, but lost the Battle of Kings Mountain in October 1780 and the Battle of Cowpens in January 1781. British forces were eventually driven out of the state by South Carolinian forces under the leadership of Francis Marion, Thomas Sumter, and Andrew Pickens, among others. South Carolina ratified the Articles of Confederation and became the 8th state to join the Union, on 23 May 1788.

Secession The state's plantation-based agrarian economy continued to expand and the newly invented cotton gin, which separated the fibres from the cotton boll, enabled planters to spread to all parts of the state, making them a powerful political force. On 22 June 1822 Denmark Vesey was apprehended in an alleged plan to lead a mass uprising of Charleston's African-American population. News of the plot caused widespread alarm in South Carolina and among slaveholders in the Deep South in general. Overproduction and falling prices were also hastening a depression in the cotton industry. Cotton planters blamed their misfortune on the federal national tariff and in 1832 South Carolina passed a Nullification Act in an attempt to boycott and disobey the tariff.

Although the state was forced to repeal its act, South Carolinian John C Calhoun resigned as US vice-president in 1832 in order to re-enter the Senate to campaign for states' rights and to lead the South in its arguments against the federal government and the North. Wary of the abolitionist (antislavery) movement, Calhoun launched a vehement intellectual and political justification of the plantation system, on which many in South Carolina believed their entire economy relied.

South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union after Lincoln's election as president of the USA in December 1860, and Confederate forces led by Governor Francis W Pickens fired on Union-held Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor on April 12 1861, effectively triggering the American Civil War. South Carolina was harshly punished by the Union for its rebellious stance, and Union general William T Sherman's troops caused widespread destruction in the closing months of the war, culminating in the burning of Columbia in 1865. South Carolina was readmitted to the Union in 1868, but federal troops did not leave the state until 1877.

Reconstruction During Reconstruction newly enfranchised slaves took to tenant farming, or sharecropping, and carpetbaggers (northern opportunists seeking political and financial gain in the South) and scalawags (southerners who aided the northern Republican party) were popular with them. Meanwhile, a political elite, known as the ‘Bourbon Aristocracy’, sought to develop a deeply conservative Southern Democratic Party.

Political corruption and instability were widespread in South Carolina during the Reconstruction period. As South Carolina's plantations floundered, hit especially hard by the Panic of 1873 financial crash, the Southern Democrats rose to power with the war hero Wade Hampton taking the governorship in 1876. In 1882 the discriminatory Eight Box Voting law, designed to disenfranchise African-American voters and allow white registrars to strike them from the voting lists, effectively robbed black South Carolinians of their right to vote.

Economic instability and racial unrest In 1890 the election of ‘Pitchfork Ben’ Tillman marked a break from the rule of a coastal political elite, and a new state constitution issued in 1895 expanded educational opportunity, created labour reform laws, and attempted a more even distribution of taxes. Despite these egalitarian measures, Tillman also initiated the notorious Jim Crow laws, which excluded almost all black voters from the Democratic primaries. African Americans, who comprised about 60% of the state's population, were relegated to less than 5% of the electorate in South Carolina at this time.

During the 1900s South Carolina's agrarian economy was steadily industrialized and textiles became the state's leading industry after 1900. The Great Depression (1929 to the mid 1930s) did not spare South Carolina, and the state was forced to draw on the New Deal's federal aid. A plague of boll weevils and the effects of soil erosion caused by over-intensive cultivation seriously damaged the now uncertain agrarian economy. The introduction of tobacco and soybean crops improved this situation.

White supremacists and the Ku Klux Klan increased their following and carried out persecutory actions of extreme violence, including the lynching of African Americans. Between 1900 and 1950 an estimated half a million African Americans migrated from South Carolina, heading mainly for New York, where industrial opportunities increased during World War I and World War II. This mass exodus left South Carolina with a white majority state for the first time. Although the discriminatory poll tax for African-American voters was abolished in 1947, a culture of racial hatred persisted, and attempts to allow desegregation met with considerable resistance from white leaders such as James F Byrnes and Strom Thurmond, who ran for president in 1948 as a States Rights candidate. It was not until after the national Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965) that African Americans in South Carolina were able to achieve any real degree of legislative influence in the state.

In 1964 the state's voters supported the conservative Republican candidate, Barry Goldwater, in the US presidential election, and prominent conservative Democrats, including Senator Thurmond, defected to the Republican party. This started a process of realignment in state politics that was to lead to the Republicans becoming the dominant party.

The 1968 Orangeburg Massacre, in which white highway patrol officers killed three students and wounded twenty-eight more as they demonstrated outside a bowling alley that had refused to integrate, was blamed on Cleveland Sellers, a young civil-rights organizer, who the police claimed had started a riot; he was later pardoned in 1993. The Democratic politician Jesse Jackson began his rise as a national civil-rights leader in the 1970s, and African Americans began to be elected to a previously all-white state legislature. African-American legislators in the South Carolina House of Representatives formed the Legislative Black Caucus in 1975 in order to promote cooperative legislative action.

Contemporary South Carolina Since the 1970s South Carolina has become a ‘Sunbelt’ state, attracting workers from other parts of the USA and experiencing a boom in its service industries. The state, however, was caused billions of dollars of damage by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Governorship of South Carolina remained with the Republican Party from 1976 until 1999, when the Democrat Jim Hodges won office, holding it until 2003.

In 1983 the civil-rights leader Rev I DeQuincey Newman was elected as the state's first African-American state senator since 1886, and in 1992 James E Clyburn became the first African-American US Representative since Reconstruction in the 19th century.

South Carolina has been at the centre of the Confederate Flag controversy. In 2000, some 6,000 people gathered in Colombia to support the Confederate flag being flown over the Statehouse (state capitol building), where it had flown for 38 years. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), however, opposed it as a symbol of slavery, and sponsored a protest march of 50,000 people. Governor Jim Hodges finally ruled that the flag should be removed.

At the beginning of the 21st century South Carolina faced the challenges of improving its education and health care systems, particularly in rural areas.

Famous peoplethe arts DuBose Heyward (1885–1940), novelist; Dizzy Gillespie (1917–1993), jazz trumpeter; Eartha Kitt (1927–2008), singer

society and education Mary McCleod Bethune (1875–1955), educator and suffragette

politics and law Christopher Gadsden (1723–1805), military leader and diplomat; Henry Laurens (1724–1792), Revolutionary politician; Francis Marion (1732–1795), Revolutionary military leader; Arthur Middleton (1743–1787), Declaration of Independence signatory; William Moultrie (1730–1805), military leader and governor; Andrew Jackson (1767–1845), 7th president of the USA; John C Calhoun (1782–1850), Democratic US vice-president; Strom Thurmond (1902–2003), Republican senator; Rev I DeQuincey Newman (1911–1985), civil-rights leader and state senator; Jesse Jackson (1941– ), civil rights leader.


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