Last Look: A Bench By The Water

Photo by Steve Rosamilia


"There is no place you or I can go, to think about or not think about, to summon the presences of, or recollect the absences of slaves . . . There is no suitable memorial, or plaque, or wreath, or wall, or park, or skyscraper lobby. There's no 300-foot tower, there's no small bench by the road. There is not even a tree scored, an initial that I can visit or you can visit in Charleston or Savannah or New York or Providence or better still on the banks of the Mississippi. And because such a place doesn't exist . . . the book had to.”

 On July 26, 2008, these words, spoken by Toni Morrison in 1989 in regard to her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Beloved, went from wistful to reality right here on Sullivan’s Island. On that day the first entry for the “Bench by the Road Project,” an outdoor museum to mark important locations in African American history, was placed by the Intracoastal Waterway across from Fort Moultrie. Why? Because nearly 40 percent of enslaved Africans first set foot on North American soil on this island, where they were placed in quarantine before the “healthy” were sent on to be sold. The rest remained here forever.