When Charleston’s Old Slave Mart Museum opened its doors on Feb. 21, 1938, the privately run tourist attraction was a ball of contradictions.
Founded by an Ohio transplant, the site made many white Charlestonians uncomfortable by putting a part of its slave history on public view, but the institution also sold Colonial Belle Goodies and didn’t stray far from the moonlight and magnolias messaging of the era.
Miriam B. Wilson, whose father was a decorated Union veteran, purchased the modest structure at 6 Chalmers St. because it was a surviving example of a mart where slaves were sold domestically before the Civil War.
She ran the museum until her death in 1959, after which two Charleston sisters, Louise Alston Graces and Judith Wragg Chase, stepped in to preserve it and keep it open. They closed it in 1987, after which the city bought the building — but not its collection, which largely left town.
The current version of the Old Slave Mart Museum, which the city opened in 2008, bears little resemblance to its forerunners, aside from the walls surrounding it.
And it will continue to evolve: …
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(The opinions in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Southern Nation News or SN.O.)