Black-owned tour company lifts the veil of Charleston’s past

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  • Published on March 23, 2023
  • Last Updated May 15, 2023
  • In Culture

Frankly Charleston Black History Tours takes guests on a wild, but honest, walk through Charleston’s history.

Charleston, South Carolina has a checkered past with its Black community. That history is embedded within the cobblestone streets of the marketplace to the swamps of the low country. To ensure the narrative is told correctly, several Black-owned tour companies have taken to the city streets to give the real story.

Frankly Charleston Black History Tours gave its first tour in 2015. Owner Franklin Williams offers multiple walking tours guiding guests through the unknown and forgotten history of Downtown Charleston. The interactive tour has planned stops, which can change depending on guests’ interests. A reporter from Fodors Travel shared their unique experience of taking a Frankly tour.

Williams opens the tour by describing Charleston as “Confederate Disneyland.” Before guiding his own tours, Williams drove the bus for other history tours. Once he obtained his license to guide his own tours, Wiliams stated, “I got into an industry I felt ought to be ashamed of itself.”

Over the years, Williams formed a distaste for the tours he worked on that would share the history that was far from the truth. Williams shared that as he drove for hours and days, he’d listen to guides tell visitors lies about “happy slaves” and how the “aristocracy had built Charleston.” They would credit the city’s history to white men and enslavers like Nathaniel Russell, William Aiken, and Joseph Manigault.

Williams clears up any misconceptions about whose blood, sweat, and tears went into building the city very early into the tour.

Frankly Charleston tours pull the veil off the eyes of visitors. Williams’ walking tour reveals how the past is still amongst the present. For example, large block structures in the middle of a busy crosswalk aren’t carriage steps, but are auction blocks. Williams also focuses on the separation of enslaved and free African Americans that has transcended into the relationship between residents of the low country and the city of the present day.

To book your tour with Williams, visit his website.


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