Downtown Charleston, S.C. (WCBD) – Living in Charleston, you’re probably familiar with the phrase “East Side.” Entrenched with history, in this week’s edition of 2 Your Roots, we take a closer look at the community’s deep heritage.
According to the Charleston County Public Library, Hampstead Village is the historic heart of Charleston’s “East Side” community. A 1769 survey of Hampstead laid out 140 rectangular building lots, each nearly half an acre in size. Surrounding streets bare name with historic roots:
- Drake Street was named for the explorer, Sir Francis Drake
- Amherst Street was named for the British commander of North American forces during the recent French and Indian War, General Jeffery Amherst Wolfe Street (now misspelled “Woolfe”) was named for the fallen hero of the 1759 Battle of Quebec, General James Wolfe
- Nassau Street was named for King William III, of the House of Nassau
- Hanover Street was named for the successive King Georges and the House of Hanover
- America Street was named after Christopher Columbus and his greatest discovery, America
Throughout the years, Charleston’s East Side neighborhood grew to be viewed as an “eyesore,” and in the early 1960s, crime rates were on the rise as the neighborhood’s population began to shrink. The Charleston County Public Library explains that as the Charleston-Metro area modernized in the late twentieth century, the city’s East Side continued to struggle.
“New residents, increasing numbers of tourists, and valuable commercial investment—especially after Hurricane Hugo in 1989—transformed Charleston into an increasingly desirable destination, but the economic benefits of this trend largely bypassed the East Side. By the turn of the twenty-first century, the heart of the East Side—the neighborhood formerly known as Hampstead Village—looked much as it had forty years earlier.”CCPL: Charleston Time Machine, Episode 131
In 2015, a film exploring issues facing Charleston’s East Side was written, directed, and produced by Idrissou Mora-Kpai. In solidarity with protests against racial injustice, Mora-Kpai is providing free access to his film, “America Street.”
In a synopsis on his website, Mora-Kpai introduces the audience to Joe; the owner of a small corner store at the heart of a slowly disappearing black community.
“Almost half of all African-Americans trace their origins back to Charleston, a city that is still haunted by its slave owning past. In the face of the multiple challenges that African Americans face, Joe is determined to stay hopeful and to resist losing his neighborhood to the rising forces of gentrification.”Idrissou Mora-Kpai
Mora-Kpai says his films incorporate his own experiences and sensibility as both an African and a migrant. You can click here to watch his film. It is free to stream until June 9th.