Exploring Black History on Hilton Head Island: 'Let's Go Together' Season 2, Episode 24

Here's why every American should know about historic Mitchelville Freedom Park.

Photo of Ahmad Ward, the Let's Go Together Guest for Episode 24
Photo: Courtesy of Ahmad Ward

Traveling brings us many joys, from trying new foods to seeing new sites, meeting new people, and discovering hidden gems. But perhaps the most important thing travel can do for us is teach us important new lessons about where we've been and where we're going, together.

Be it big bucket list journeys or trips around the corner, we're here to celebrate travels big and small and everything in between. We're honoring this return to great things with new episodes of our podcast, Let's Go Together, which highlights how travel changes the way we see ourselves and the world.

In the first season, our pilot and adventurer host, Kellee Edwards, introduced listeners to diverse globe-trotters who showed us that travelers come in all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life. From the first Black woman to travel to every country on Earth to a man who trekked to Machu Picchu in a wheelchair, we met some incredible folks. And now, in our second season, we are back to introduce you to new people, new places, and new perspectives.

On this episode of Let's Go Together, Edwards sits down with Ahmad Ward, the executive director of Historic Mitchelville Freedom Park, the site of the first self-governed town of formerly enslaved people in the United States.

"There's so much history, and it's a place where black people owned property for a very long time," Ward says of Hilton Head. "From reconstruction going to the teens, '30s, and '40s, Mitchelville is a highlight of the concept of freedom in America. It is a linchpin site because these folks were calling their own shots. They were charting their own course. And even after the hurricane and even after the army leaves and the population starts to contract, those folks were left with knowledge on how to live."

According to Ward, Mitchelville was established in 1862 at a time where "there should have been no free black communities." Following the Civil War, General Ormsby Mitchel came to the area to help the newly freed community to build their own path to the future.

"He gave them about six or 700 acres of property from the old Drayton Plantation and says, 'This is your land. This is your soil. This is your property. You build on it, you grow on it, raise your families, start schools, start businesses, have churches. This is a chance for you to be citizens of something,'" Ward says. "And so, that's why our tagline is, 'Where freedom began,' because for us, this was the first opportunity that Africans in America could be citizens of something, especially a community that they built themselves."

Ready to hear more about the fascinating history of Mitchelville Freedom Park and how you can plan a visit? Listen as Ward shares it all on Let's Go Together, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Player.FM, and everywhere podcasts are available.

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