No More Dixie Plantation

At College of Charleston

Patrick Gentry
May 20, 2019 - 11:25 am
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The College of Charleston has rebranded its 800-plus-acre former plantation to reaffirm its "commitment to diversity, inclusion and community."

The college's Board of Trustees voted unanimously last month to support interim President Steve Osborne's recommendation to rename Dixie Plantation as the College of Charleston at Stono Preserve.

"I think the effort was really to bring the name in line with how we use the property and what its mission is," he said.

Osborne said Wednesday — his last day before incoming President Andrew Hsu took over — the college had discussed the name change for about a year and he fully supported the move, the Post and Courier reported .

Reaction so far, he said, has been positive.

"Any decision you make certainly can cause resistance, but so far, we really haven't received any," he said. "I believe totally it was the right thing to do."

The decision comes just two months after Osborne dealt with a walkout by hundreds of students protesting an online video in which some students joked about slavery. The video showed white males riding in the back of a pickup truck through the woods when one says, "Yessir, we out here in the country about to go visit my slave farm."

In March, Osborne called the video "deeply offensive," adding, "These disturbing comments run completely counter to our core values of integrity, respect for the individual student, diversity and community."

Osborne said the incident didn't factor into the name change. Instead, he said the new name better fits with how the college uses the site.

"Last week's vote was taken in support of the college's expanded educational mission at Stono Preserve and reaffirms who we are as a university and our commitment to diversity, inclusion and community," Osborne said.

The property currently has two field research stations, interpretive trails, a student garden and several support facilities. The college also has built a multipurpose, known as "The Barn" for use as a classroom, small conference space and special events, at the site.

The college's foundation, which owns the property, also has expanded it by about 100 acres beyond the land in the original plantation gift. The property sits just south of the Links at Stono Ferry, between the Stono River and S.C. Highway 162 in Hollywood.

While the former rice and cotton plantation dates back to the 18th century, its Dixie name came later — and no one seems sure exactly when.

The earliest records of the property near the Stono River don't refer to Dixie. An 1807 plat by Joseph Purcell refers to the settlement as "Fickling's," according to a thesis paper by a University of East Carolina anthropology student. It also notes that Dixie Plantation Road was historically known as Willtown Road.

Osborne said the college has made no request to change the name of the road.

According to the history on the College of Charleston's website, the property was known as Dixie Plantation at least by 1882. That's when Eliza Ann Richards, widow of Frederick Richards wrote, "I leave Dixie Plantation, and all proceeds therefrom to my son Frank."

The rebranding also comes at a time when some local developers are dropping the word "plantation" from their neighborhoods.

While the term "Dixie" has seen less local official use, the song with the same name has stirred its share of unease. In 1992, after a high-profile, racially charged incident at The Citadel, the school stopped its tradition of singing "Dixie" during football games.

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