FLORENCE COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — The descendants of Jamestown, a historic Reconstruction-era African American community in Florence County celebrated 152 years since its founding over the weekend.
“We’ve got people from Tennessee to Kentucky to New York here presenting,” said Terry James, executive director of the Jamestown Foundation. “This is very serious. We are educating the public on the history of African Americans.”
Period-authentic craftsmen, Civil War soldiers and actors portraying Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass spent the weekend presenting at Jamestown’s “True Freedom” celebration.
Terry James said the event commemorates a history that started with his great-great-great grandfather in 1870.
“Five years out of slavery, Erving James decided he didn’t want to be a tenant farmer or sharecropper. He wanted to own his own property,” he said.
He said Erving James bought land near what is now Old Marion Highway to be a home for his family. The settlement grew and at its peak had a church, school and more than 300 residents.
“It was a very bustling community and people and everyone around wanted to come to Jamestown because you could have fun, relax, you didn’t have to worry about someone trying to hurt you,” James said.
He said Jamestown declined in the twentieth century as residents left to pursue jobs in other states, but the history of Erving James and his family’s achievements survive.
“This is the reason we do what we do — to celebrate those who came before us who fought and struggled, who may have been beaten or even hanged,” James said.
He said the event was canceled for the last two years due to COVID-19 and the family was eager to see it return so they could keep telling Jamestown’s story.
“152 years out of slavery, we still own the property,” James said. “The reason I keep this history alive is because to me, Erving was a hero. A very brave man.”