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Digital exhibition highlights history of Black + immigrant-owned businesses in Charleston, SC

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Robert F. Morrison’s Esso Station at 179 Coming Street, circa 1938. | Photos courtesy of Preservation Society of Charleston and Lowcountry Digital History Initiative

The Preservation Society of Charleston has launched the Morris Street Business District Project — a digital exhibition that highlights the rich and diverse history of Morris Street + the people who shaped it over the course of nearly two centuries.

Though a geographically small part of the Charleston peninsula, Morris Street historically contained one of the highest concentrations of Black-owned and operated businesses, offices, and residences in the city, as well as numerous houses of worship.

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Max Goldstein — a Jewish immigrant — in his menswear shop, 538 King Street, circa 1920 | Photo courtesy of College of Charleston Libraries and Lowcountry Digital History Initiative

This district was also home to a thriving immigrant community, including German grocers, Irish laborers, Chinese businessmen, and Russian-Jewish merchants. The combination of these diverse communities make the Morris Street Business District an important area of study to understand Charleston’s complex social, cultural, economic, and racial history.

This in-depth research project was initiated by the Preservation Society’s Thomas Mayhem Pinckney Alliance in partnership with the College of Charleston’s Lowcountry Digital History Initiative. The Thomas Mayhem Pickney Alliance is a task force established in 2013 to identify, recognize, and preserve places representative of the contributions of African Americans to the built environment of the Lowcountry.

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First graduating class of the Cannon Street Hospital and Training School for Nurses, 1897 | Photo courtesy of Waring Historical Library, MUSC, Charleston, S.C. and Lowcountry Digital History Initiative

The digital exhibit includes an online storyboard and an interactive map highlighting the histories of 20+ individual sites located along Morris Street and its surrounding neighborhoods.

View the free, online exhibition via the Lowcountry Digital History Initiative here.

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