Middleton Place interpreter Matt Jackson harvesting Carolina Gold Rice
Carolina Gold Rice Harvest Sept. 12-14 at Middleton Place
What was life like for enslaved African Americans on a Low Country rice plantation at harvest time? For over a decade, the interpretive staff at Middleton Place has recreated the experience of planting, caring for, harvesting and processing the heritage-breed Carolina Gold Rice in a quarter-acre field along the Ashley River. As it was in the 18th and 19th centuries, harvest time is in September. Middleton Place National Historic Landmark invites the public to join costumed interpreters on Sept. 12, 13, and 14 at the rice field for the annual Rice Harvest. The event is free with paid admission.
Using the methods once employed by enslaved African Americans who toiled in rice fields from the Cape Fear to the St. Johns rivers, Middleton Place interpreters continue to coax from the earth the most important grain in Charleston’s history. The Rice Harvest event offers an intense educational opportunity for visitors. Twice each day from 10 a.m. until noon and 1 p.m. until 3 p.m., costumed interpreters will be at the field cutting the raw rice stalks, discussing rice culture with visitors and demonstrating threshing, pounding and winnowing rice.
Rice and 18th century plantation-themed programming will continue each day in the Plantation Stableyards, where visitors can interact with artisans practicing the skilled crafts necessary to keep a pre-Civil War Low Country plantation running. Each day the potter’s kick wheel will be spinning at full RPM, the cooper will be carving barrel staves, and the seamstress spinning thread from cotton and wool.
On Saturday, Sept. 14, these artisans will be joined by additional interpreters, including Sharon Cooper Murray, a Gullah interpreter who will give presentations on Gullah history and culture at Eliza’s House, the on-site freedman’s cottage near the Stableyards. Murray has spent the past several decades immersed in Gullah history and traditions, learning and practicing the arts and crafts of the distinct Low Country sub-culture. She will be available for discussions about Gullah culture and reciting traditional Gullah folk tales from 10 a.m. to noon.
Lowcountry Rice Culture Project Visiting Sept. 14
Founded by preeminent cross-cultural artist Jonathan Green in 2012, the Lowcountry Rice Culture Project seeks to discover and revive the significance of rice cultivation in the South Carolina Low Country and its legacies, and use it as a launching point for broad discussions of race, class, art, trade, history and economics. The Lowcountry Rice Culture Project has partnered with Middleton Place, the Culinary Institute of Charleston, and the College of Charleston to conduct a forum on Low Country rice production and culture. Scheduled participants include scholars, teachers, community leaders, public historians, docents and employees of local historic and cultural sites, as well as several representatives from the Project’s institutional partners in the Republic of Guinea in West Africa.
The goal of the forum is to provide solid information and teaching materials to individuals who are in a position to pass it along to a broader audience. During the three-day forum, held Sept. 12-14, participants will examine these issues with guidance from qualified scholars and activists. Some of scheduled presenters include Glenn Roberts of Anson Mills and the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation, professors Max Edelson and Lee Bowden of the University of Virginia, professor Edda Fields-Black of Carnegie Mellon University, and African Diaspora foodways author Jessica B. Harris.
Day One will open with evening demonstrations and tastings of rice products from the chefs from the Culinary Institute of Charleston at the institute’s Palmer Campus. Day Two will take place at the College of Charleston, and will focus on presentations by and discussions with scholars, followed by lectures and discussions. Day Three will take place at Middleton Place, where participants will get hands-on experience with Carolina Gold Rice in the plantation’s demonstration rice field, followed by discussions of the annual rice harvest, African retentions and cultural elements related to rice production, and Low Country foodways.
The cost of the three-day forum is $125. Registration and more information are available at www.lowcountryriceculture.org. In addition, Middleton Place is holding its own Rice Harvest event Sept. 12-14. Rice will be harvested twice each day from 10 a.m. until noon and 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. at the demonstration rice field where interpreters will be available to discuss rice production and culture with visitors. The event is free with paid admission. For more information on the Middleton Place Annual Rice Harvest, call 843-556-6020, or go to www.middletonplace.org.
The mission of the Middleton Place Foundation, a public non-profit educational trust, is to sustain the highest levels of preservation and interpretation for the Middleton Place National Historic Landmark, its Gardens, House, Plantation Stableyards and affiliated properties, such as the Edmondston-Alston House, and their collections and programs. Middleton Place and the Middleton Place Restaurant are located at 4300 Ashley River Road, Charleston, SC 29414. www.middletonplace.org