8 February 2003
Charleston, South Carolina, 333 years old and still a charmer, has a memory nearly as long as its history, and downtown, parallel-parked Volvos aside, is not all that different from the way it was when Rhett Butler supposedly wandered around its streets. King Street is the main north-south street, and it was a wild mix of modern-day commerce and antebellum gentility when I lived in the Holy City in the 60s; it still is today.
In 2000, reconstruction began on the William Aiken House at 456 King Street, about a third of a mile north of Marion Square, a world away from the presumed haughtiness of the SOB (South Of Broad) district but only a few steps from the present-day Charleston Visitor Center. The new owners have turned it into a small-scale (about 20,000 square feet) convention center, a place for small gatherings with a taste of history.
This afternoon, Senator John Edwards (D-NC) is at the Aiken House, doing some of the obligatory legwork for his Presidential campaign. None of this matters, except that Edwards is supposed to be paying lip service to the NAACP's South Carolina boycott, and yes, it is true, William Aiken actually once owned slaves. Rather a lot of them, in fact. If you wanted to find a place in Charleston that had no discernible ties to anything that even remotely resembled the old Confederacy, you'd have to have your meetings at the Burger King on Dorchester Road near I-526. The NAACP Web site hasn't put up a complaint yet; I'm hoping this means that they're not going to pitch a fit about the Edwards appearance, but it could be simply that their Webmaster has the weekend off.
"What he's doing meets our guidelines," said James Gallman, president of [the NAACP's] South Carolina branch, adding "I'm very pleased with the efforts he has made and the support he has given our boycott."
Let's see what happens if a Republican tries to hold a pep rally at the Aiken House any time in the next few hundred years.