Today In Charleston History: June 30

1665

A second charter was drafted to the Lords Proprietors of Carolina to settle several legal issues in the original 1629 Heath grant.

1702-Births

Elizabeth Villin was born in Amsterdam. She would later marry Lewis Timothy and move to Charles Town in 1731.

1812

Theodosia’s son, Aaron Burr Alston, died of a summer fever. Theodosia’s health deteriorated to the point she was unable to travel to visit her father. Joseph Alston wished to reunite his wife with her father. However, as brigadier general of the state militia, it was impossible for him to leave during a state of declared war.

1865

President of the United States, Andrew Johnson, issued a proclamation establishing a provisional government for South Carolina. He appointed Benjamin F. Perry, a South Carolina native as provisional governor because of the strong unionist views he had held prior to the war.

Benjamin Franklin Perry

Benjamin Franklin Perry

Perry was directed by the president to enroll voters and to lead the state in the writing of a new state constitution. The delegates at the constitutional convention largely followed Perry’s guidelines for the constitution, but they strayed by adopting the black codes to prevent black suffrage. President Johnson urged the granting of suffrage to blacks while also including a property qualification clause. A property qualification would essentially disenfranchise all blacks without giving the appearance of impropriety towards blacks and prevent the imposition of harsh terms by the Radical Republicans. 

Benjamin Franklin Perry said in 1865:

The African has been in all ages, a savage or a slave. God created him inferior to the white man in form, color, and intellect, and no legislation or culture can make him his equal… His hair, his form and features will not compete with the caucasian race, and it is in vain to think of elevating him to the dignity of the white man. God created differences between the two races, and nothing can make him equal.

Upon the completion of the constitution, elections were called and Perry sought election to the U.S. Senate. He was elected along with John Lawrence Manning, but the Radical Republicans in charge of Congress refused to seat them. In 1872, he unsuccessfully ran for the 4th congressional district House seat against Republican Alexander S. Wallace. His son, William Hayne Perry, did successfully gain election to the House and was a member from 1885 to 1891.

1934

The Spartanburg Herald-Journal  posted this story about George Gershwin at Folly Beach.  

GERSHWIN, GONE NATIVE, BASKS AT FOLLY BEACH.
Charleston, June 30.

Bare and black above the waist, an inch of hair bristling from his face, and with a pair of tattered knickers furnishing a sole connected link with civilization, George Gershwin, composer of jazz music, had gone native. He is staying at the Charles T. Tamsberg cottage at Folly Beach, South Carolina.

“I have become acclimated,” he said yesterday as he ran his hand experimentally through a crop of dark, matted hair which had not had the benefit of being combed for many, many days. “You know, it’s so pleasant here that it’s really a shame to work.”

Two weeks at Folly have made a different Gershwin from the almost sleek creator of “Rhapsody in Blue”  and “Concerto in F” who arrived from New York City on June 16. Naturally brown, he is now black. Naturally sturdy, he is now sturdier. Gershwin, it would seem intends to play the part of Crown, the tremendous buck in “Porgy” who lunges a knife into the throat of a friend too lucky at craps and who makes women love him by placing huge black hands about their throats and tensing their muscles.

George Gershwin

George Gershwin

The opera “Porgy” which Gershwin is writing from the book and play by DuBose Heyward, is to be a serious musical work to be presented by the Guild Theater early next year, is an interpretation in sound of the life in Charleston’s “Catfish Row”; an impressionistic dissertation on the philosophy of negro life and the relationship between the negro and the white.   Mr. Heyward, who is staying at Lester Karow’s cottage at the beach, spends every afternoon with the composer, cutting the score, rewriting and whipping the now-completed first act into final form.

“We are attempting to have an opera that is serious and dramatic,” Mr. Gershwin said.  “The whites will speak their lines, but the negroes will sing throughout. I hope the audience will get the idea. With the colored people there is always a song, see? They always find something to sing about somewhere. The whites are dull and drab.”

It is the crap game scene and subsequent murder by Crown which may make the first act the most dramatic of the production. A strange rhythm and an acid, biting quality in the music create the sensation of conflict and strife between men and strife caused by the rolling bones of luck.

“You won’t hear the dice click and roll,” he said. “It is impressionism, not realism. When you want to get a great painting of nature you don’t take a camera with you.”

Jazz will rear its hotcha head at intervals through the more serious music. Sporting Life, the negro who peddles “joy powder” or dope, to the residents of Catfish Row, will be represented by ragtime.

“Even though we are cutting as much as possible, it is going to be a very long opera,” Mr. Gershwin said. “It takes three times as long to sing a line as it does to say it. In the first act, scene one is 94 pages of music long and scene two is 74.”

There is only one thing about Charleston and Folly that Mr. Gershwin does not like. “Your amateur composers bring me their pieces for me to play. I am very busy and most of them are very bad – very, very bad,” he said.

George Gershwin rented the Tamsberg cottage for his visit to Folly Beach in 1934. It was completely destroyed in a hurricane in 1940. Dorothy and DuBose Heyward lived in the cottage now known as The Porgy House which will be open for tours again after December 8th.

Sketch of Gershwin’s cottage by his cousin, Henry Botkin. George Gershwin rented the Tamsberg cottage for his visit to Folly Beach in 1934. It was completely destroyed in a hurricane in 1940.
Dorothy and DuBose Heyward lived in the cottage which is now known as The Porgy House. Courtesy of The Gershwin Estate