African American History Monument
Installed March 29, 2001
Designed by Ed Dwight
Funded with private donations
The African American History Monument tells an uplifting story of black South Carolinians from 1619 to the present day. The legislative commission formed to undertake its conception and fundraising sought public input on the design and raised all of the $1.2 million price tag through private donations. The plaza’s semi-circular shape (meant to recall a drum), obelisk (a form understood to have originated in Africa), a series of stones, and the representation of the slave ship Brookes (which began to appear in abolitionist literature in the 1780s) in terrazzo recognize the experience of enslaved people kidnapped in Africa and transported to North America. Arranged chronologically, 12 panels of relief sculptures depict scenes of Africans' and African Americans’ enslavement, emancipation (represented in the middle by the obelisk), struggle for civil rights, and contemporary achievements. To ensure a unifying and positive message, the monument does not depict any specific individuals and abstract, and controversial subjects from Dwight’s original design, including hooded Klansmen and black men being lynched, are depicted with words rather than images. It was the largest monument on the State House grounds until the completion of the South Carolina Armed Forces Monument in 2005 and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Memorial in 2006, which both mimic this monument in shape and size.