Geography and Landforms:

Three geographic land areas define South Carolina; the Atlantic Coastal Plain (comprising two thirds of the state), the Piedmont, and the Blue Ridge region. South Carolinians simplify this somewhat by referring to the eastern Atlantic Coastal Plain as the Low Country and the Piedmont and the Blue Ridge region as Up Country.

An area of the Atlantic Coastal Plain, defined as extending from the coast about 70 miles inland, is referred to as the Outer Coastal Plain. This area is quite flat. Many rivers can be found in the Outer Coastal Plain with swamps near the coast that extend inland along the rivers. An area called the Inner Coastal Plain consists of rolling hills. South Carolina's most fertile soils are here.

In the central Atlantic Coastal Plain is an area of forested land called the Pine Barrens. On the western edge of the Atlantic Coastal Plain, running from the southwest to the northeast, is a line of sand hills. These sand hills may have once marked the eastern coast of South Carolina suggesting that the entire Atlantic Coastal Plain may have once been under water.

To the northwest of the Atlantic Coastal Plain is the Piedmont. The Piedmont is marked by higher elevations, from 400 to 1,200 feet above sea level and reaching 1,400 feet above sea level on its western edge. The landscape consists of rolling hills; gentler in the east and more hilly to the west and northwest. The border between the Piedmont region and the Atlantic Coastal Plain is called the Fall Line to mark the line where the upland rivers "fall" to the lower Atlantic Coastal Plain.

The Blue Ridge covers the northwestern corner of South Carolina. Part of the larger Blue Ridge that extends from southern Pennsylvania south to Georgia, the South Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains are lower and less rugged than the mountains in North Carolina. The forest covered Blue Ridge Mountains of South Carolina rarely exceed 3,000 feet above sea level. The highest point in South Carolina, Sassafras Mountain, reaches 3,554 feet into the sky.


In 1520, Spanish explorer Lucas Vasquez Ayllon explored the area near Pawley's Island. The group took about 140 Native Americans as slaves including one man they named Francisco Chicora. Chicora was taken to Spain and taught Spanish. In 1523, he was brought back to the area to assist in establishing a colony, but escaped soon after his arrival. Following exploration of the coast in 1521 by Francisco de Gordillo, the Spanish tried unsuccessfully to establish a colony near present-day Georgetown in 1526. The French also failed to colonize Parris Island near Fort Royal in 1562 with the assistance of the Cusabo Indians.

On March 24, 1663, Charles II granted to the Lords Proprietors a slice of North America running from the Atlantic to the Pacific, lying between 36 degrees north latitude on the north and 31 degrees on the south. This huge section of continent was granted absolutely to the following men, to be financed by them, and for them to profit by, and to rule, with the help or interference of such a local government as they might permit. Above them was only the King. In the order named in Charles' charter they were: the Earl of Clarendon, the Duke of Albemarle, Lord Craven, Lord Berkeley, Lord Ashley, Sir George Carteret, Sir William Berkeley and Sir John Colleton. The most important of these was Lord Ashley (Anthony Ashley Cooper), whose secretary, the philosopher John Locke, wrote the Fundamental Constitution of Carolina.

The first English settlement was made in 1670 at Albemarle Point on the Ashley River, but poor conditions drove the settlers to the site of Charleston (originally called Charles Town).

Two years later, the charter was amended to raise the north line 30 minutes and the south line by two degrees. In other words, the huge slice of North America that was Carolina included: the present states of North and South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas, a small part of Missouri, most of Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, the southern half of California, the southern tip of Nevada, the north part of Florida, and a slice of northern Mexico!

Carolina, named after the British King Charles I, was officially separated into South and North Carolina in 1710. African slaves were brought into the colony in large numbers to provide labor for the plantations, and by 1720 they formed the majority of the population. The port city of Charleston became an important center of commerce and culture. The interior or upcountry, meanwhile, was being slowly settled by small farmers and traders, who pushed the dwindling tribes of Native Americans to the west.

By the time of the American Revolution, South Carolina was one of the richest colonies in America. Its merchants and planters formed a strong governing class, contributing many leaders to the fight for independence. More Revolutionary War battles and skirmishes were fought in South Carolina than any other state, including major engagements at Sullivan's Island, Camden, Kings Mountain , and Cowpens. South Carolina ratified the United States Constitution on May 23, 1788, becoming the eighth state to enter the union.

In the following years the state grew and prospered. With the invention of the cotton gin, cotton became a major crop, particularly in the upcountry. A new capital city, Columbia, was founded in the center of the state. Dissatisfaction with the federal government and its tariff policies grew during this period, however, and by 1860 tensions between the state and the federal government reached a climax. Unhappy over restrictions on free trade and about calls for the abolition of slavery, South Carolina seceded from the union on December 20, 1860, the first of the Southern states to do so. When Confederate troops fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor on April 12, 1861, the nation plunged into Civil War.

The Civil War and its aftermath were devastating for South Carolina. The state lost nearly one fifth of the white male population, and its economy was shattered. The final blow came in early 1865 when General William T. Sherman marched his troops through South Carolina, burning plantations and most of the city of Columbia. The Reconstruction period that followed the war was marked by general economic, social, and political upheaval. The former white leaders found themselves without money or political power, while the large population of freed slaves sought to improve their economic and political positions. When federal troops were withdrawn in 1877, white conservatives led by Governor Wade Hampton were able to take control of state government once again. The economy continued to suffer in the years that followed, however. Cotton prices were low, and the plantation system that had brought South Carolina such wealth was dead. Populist reforms in the 1890s brought more political power to small white farmers, but African Americans were disenfranchised and increasingly segregated.


In the late 18th century, South Carolina was one of the most prosperous of the original thirteen colonies. With the invention of the cotton gin in the early 19th century, cotton became a major crop for the state. However, the Civil War, and the end of the plantation system supported by slaves, devastated the South Carolina economy.

By the 1880's, the textile industry began to flourish again in South Carolina. It was not until after World War II, however, that South Carolina began pulling out of the economic depths to which it had sunk. Today, the state is a leader in the manufacturing and tourism industries and has a diversified economy. Numerous domestic and foreign industrial companies have plants in South Carolina, and the state is rapidly regaining the place of prominence it formerly held in the nation.

In recent years tourism has become a major industry, as travelers discovered the state's beaches and mountains. On September 21, 1989 Hurricane Hugo struck the coast, causing great damage to homes, businesses, and natural areas, but the state has made a remarkable recovery since then.

First Inhabitants:

For thousands of years before European settlers arrived in present-day South Carolina, the state was occupied by Native Americans. At least 29 distinct tribes of Indians lived within South Carolina. During the Woodland period, beginning around 3,000 years ago, Native Americans began to use pottery, and settle in semi-permanent villages. Archaeologists have found evidence that these people buried their dead in large earthen mounds and practiced religious rituals. By around 500 years ago, native people were farming corn, beans and squash, and trading tools, jewelry and ceremonial objects.

The Indian population in South Carolina and throughout the United States declined greatly after the arrival of Europeans. Tribes were weakened by European diseases such as smallpox, to which they had no immunity. Epidemics killed vast numbers of Indians, reducing some southeastern tribes by as much as two-thirds. Populations declined even further due to conflicts with the settlers over trade practices and land.

Many of the tribes that once lived in South Carolina are now extinct. This means that there are either no surviving members or that they no longer organize themselves as a tribe. A few tribes, however, still exist and are active today. This means that descendents of the original tribe organize themselves, either socially or politically, as a group. The Catawba, Pee Dee, Chicora, Edisto, Santee, and Chicora-Waccamaw tribes are all still present in South Carolina as are many descendents of the Cherokee.

In 1838, 16,000 Cherokee were forced to leave their eastern homeland in South Carolina and travel on foot to Indian Territory in Oklahoma. On the march, known as Trail of Tears, at least 2,000 died.

Books Related To South Carolina

Beautiful Creatures - Kami Garcia
(978-0316077033) , Fiction
Interest level: 7-12, ESL level: 4
Ethan's normally sedentary life changes when he meets Lena, a Caster(capable of casting spells), and they discover they can read each other's thoughts; they travel back in time to an older South Carolina and find how their families were intimately connected.

Carolina's Story: Sea Turtles Get Sick Too - Donna Rathmell German
(978-1934359006) , Fiction
Interest level: 1-5, Lexile: 700, ESL level: 3
This photographic-style picture book follows the experience of Carolina the turtle during her stay at an animal hospital and her subsequent re-release.

The Coastwatcher - Elise Weston
(978-1561454846) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-8, ESL level: 3
Hugh and his cousin Tom find evidence of a German sabotage plot while the family is summering in South Carolina to get away from polio danger.

Darby - Jonathon Scott Fuqua
(978-0763622909) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-12, Lexile: 790, ESL level: 3
Darby, an idealistic nine-year-old tries to trumpet racial equality in her proposed article sent to a local newspaper, but the town's racism creates a backlash. Darby's story on civil rights written for the local newspaper causes her family to be in danger after she reveals the truth about a racially-inspired murder.

Miles' Song - Alice McGill
(395-979382) , Fiction
Interest level: 3-9, Lexile: 880, ESL level: 4
Although Miles, a Southern slave, acts submissive, he learns to read while being disciplined by his master.

Miles' Song - Alice McGill
(978-0395979389) , Fiction
Interest level: 3-9, Lexile: 880, ESL level: 3 - 4
Miles endures his time of punishment and learns to read despite the edicts against educating slaves.

P is for Palmetto: A South Carolina Alphabet - Carol Crane
(978-1585360475) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 0-2, ESL level: 1 - 2
This book features all the things that are special about the state of South Carolina.

Famous Citizens:

Mary McLeod Bethune
Born in Mayesville, South Carolina, one of 17 children of former slaves, Mary McLeod Bethune founded the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Negro Girls (now Bethune-Cookman College) in 1904, and served as president from 1904-1942 and from 1946-47. She was a leader in the black women's club movement and served as president of the National Association of Colored Women. She was the Director of Negro Affairs in the National Youth Administration from 1936 to 1944, and served as consultant to the US Secretary of War for selection of the first female officer candidates. She was appointed consultant on interracial affairs and understanding at the charter conference of the United Nations and was founder of the National Council of Negro Women and Vice-president of the NAACP.

Dizzy Gillespie
John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie, born in Cheraw, South Carolina, the youngest of nine children, emerged as a trumpet player whose role as a founding father of jazz made him a major figure in 20th-century American music. His signature moon cheeks and bent trumpet made him one of the world's most instantly recognizable figures.

In a nearly 60-year career as a composer, bandleader and innovative player, Gillespie cut a huge swath through the jazz world. In the early 1940's, along with the alto saxophonist Charlie (Yardbird) Parker, he initiated be-bop, the sleek, intense, high speed revolution that has become jazz's most enduring style. In subsequent years, he incorporated Afro-Cuban music into jazz, creating a new genre from the combination. Dizzy Gillespie died in 1993.

Andrew Jackson
Born in a backwoods settlement in the Carolinas in 1767, Andrew Jackson received sporadic education. But in his late teens he read law for about two years, and he became an outstanding young lawyer in Tennessee. Fiercely jealous of his honor, he engaged in brawls, and in a duel killed a man who cast an unjustified slur on his wife Rachel. He became a major general in the War of 1812, and Jackson became a national hero when he defeated the British at New Orleans.

Jackson's political views won approval from the American electorate and in 1832 he polled more than 56 percent of the popular vote and almost five times as many electoral votes as his opponent to become President of the United States. After serving as President, "Old Hickory" retired to his home called the Hermitage, where he died in June 1845. His portrait appears on the 20 dollar bill.

Jesse Jackson
Jesse Louis Jackson was born in Greenville, South Carolina. In 1959 Jackson left South Carolina to attend the University of Illinois. Dissatisfied with his treatment on campus, he decided to transfer to North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College. After receiving his BA in sociology, Jackson attended the Chicago Theological Seminary. He was ordained a Baptist minister in 1968.

Jackson joined the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1965. In 1966 Jackson became involved with the SCLC's Operation Breadbasket, and from 1967 to 1971, he served as the program's executive director. Jackson resigned from the SCLC in 1971 to found his own organization, Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity). Through PUSH Jackson continued to pursue the economic objectives of Operation Breadbasket and expanded into areas of social and political development. Jackson soon became the most visible and sought-after civil rights leader in the country.

Francis "Swamp Fox" Marion
An American Revolutionary soldier, known as the "Swamp Fox," Francis Marion was born at Goatfield Plantation in St. John Berkeley Parish. He was a planter and American Indian fighter before joining William Moultrie's regiment at the start of the American Revolution. In 1779 he fought under Benjamin Lincoln at Savannah and escaped capture at Charleston by being on sick leave. Marion organized a troop which, after the American defeat at Camden in the Carolina campaign, constituted the chief colonial force in South Carolina. Engaging in guerrilla warfare, he disrupted the British lines of communication, captured scouting and foraging parties, and intimidated Loyalists. His habit of disappearing into the swamps to elude the British earned him his nickname. When Nathaniel Greene had succeeded in ousting the British from North Carolina, his lieutenant, Light-Horse Harry Lee, brought reinforcements to Marion, and they took part together in several battles, notably that at Eutaw Springs (Sept. 8, 1781). After the war, Marion served in the South Carolina senate, where he advocated a lenient policy toward the Loyalists.

Strom Thurmond
Born in Edgeville, South Carolina, Strom Thurmond read law while teaching in South Carolina schools and was admitted to the bar in 1930. Thurmond was elected a state senator in 1933 and became a circuit-court judge. After serving in World War II, he was elected governor of South Carolina. In 1948, Thurmond was nominated for president by the States' Rights Democrats, southerners ("Dixiecrats" ) who left the Democratic party in opposition to President Truman's civil-rights program; he won 39 electoral votes. In 1954 he was a successful write-in candidate as US Senator. In 1957 he staged the longest filibuster in Senate history, speaking for over 24 hours against a civil-rights bill. Thurmond switched from the Democratic to the Republican party in 1964. In 1996 he became the oldest sitting, and in 1997 the longest serving, US senator in history. He died in 2003.

Capital: Columbia
Entered Union: May 23, 1788
Population: 4,832,482
Area 32,020
Bird Great Carolina Wren
Flower Yellow Jessamine
Nickname: Palmetto State
Governor Nikki R. Haley

Places to Visit in South Carolina: (Click the links to learn more.)

Charles Towne Landing - Charleston
This is an unusual park located on the site of the first permanent English settlement in South Carolina. Take a guided tram tour of the original 1670 fortification. See a replica of a 17th-century trading ketch, explore seven miles of pathways through beautiful English park gardens, walk through the enclosed pathways of the Animal Forest, and participate in activities in the Settlers' Life Area, a partial re-creation of an early South Carolina village.

Fort Sumter National Monument - Charleston
The first shots of the War Between the States were fired at Fort Sumter from Fort Johnson in 1861. The restored national monument is under the supervision of the National Park Service, and can be visited by either tour boat or private boat. The Fort Sumter Visitors Center located at Liberty Square in Charleston serves as the point of departure for tour boats.

Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum - Mount Pleasant
Visit the aircraft carrier Yorktown, the second aircraft carrier of its name, which replaced the original lost during World War II. See how 3,000 crewmen worked and lived. The length of three football fields, it houses exhibits of bomber and fighter planes on the hangar bay and showcases letters and mementos of the crew. Also open for tours are the submarine Clamagore, the Coast Guard cutter Ingham, the destroyer Laffey, a re-creation of a Vietnam naval support base, and the Medal of Honor Museum. The Navy Flight Simulator lets visitors experience a five-minute air war over Iraq. An 18-hole golf course provides another diversion.

Cowpens National Battlefield - Gaffney
The 1781 Battle of Cowpens is regarded as one of the turning points of the Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War. Pitting Colonial General Daniel Morgan against British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton, the battle was a staggering defeat for the British. Just nine months later, the British would surrender at Yorktown, effectively ending the war. The park includes information about the battle, walking trails, and reproductions of weapons of the time period.