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The Rich History of Charleston, SC

From Hardship to Triumph

With permission from King Charles II, English settlers from Bermuda founded Charleston — originally named Charles Town — in 1670. The city suffered tumultuous beginnings, as the settlers waged war against local tribes, struggled with disease, and were forced to relocate around the area multiple times. Both Spain and France disputed England’s claim to the land, and the city was raided by Native Americans and pirates. Most notably, Charleston was besieged by the pirate “Blackbeard” for several days in 1718, when his gang attacked ships and seized hostages, only leaving in exchange for medicine.

Over the next few decades, Charleston slowly began to prosper. Diverse immigrant communities arrived in the city, including French, Scottish, Irish, Germans, and Jews. The city also became one of the Colonies’ largest centers for slavery, at times processing about half of all slaves coming into the New World and being the only major American City with a majority-slave population. This increase in trade, fueled by the plantations, made Charleston the most populous North American city south of Philadelphia and the wealthiest in British North America by the mid 18th century.

This all changed during the Civil War, when Charleston was attacked multiple times by land and sea. By the end of the war, the city’s economy had been devastated. In the decades after, thanks to the abolition of slavery, the African American population started to grow rapidly. Renewed industry slowly brought the city back to prosperity, and arts and culture were once again celebrated.

These days, Charleston is known as a fascinating tourist destination, thanks to its well-preserved architecture, historic inns and hotels, hospitable locals, and lovely scenery. It was named “America’s Most Friendly City” by Condé Nast Traveler in 2014 and the “World’s Best City” by Travel + Leisure in 2016.