As we entered the 21st century, two authors undertook separate projects interviewing residents of 20th century Beaufort County to explore what it was that made the lives they were born into and/or carved for themselves here so noteworthy. Only two women, Dr. Eleanor I. Barnwell and Grace White, are featured in both Beaufort Through the Ages by Gloria Singleton (2010) and one of the three Remembering the Way It Was volumes by Fran Heyward Marscher (2005, 2006,and 2007).
Dr. Eleanor Inez Barnwell was born in the Eustis Community on Lady's Island to Benjamin and Wilhelmina Blanding Barnwell in 1928. Her father taught at Penn School and was a County Extension Agent. Her mother taught music and ran a circulating library for the Black folks on St. Helena Island from the trunk of her car. Dr. Barnwell graduated from Penn School. She went up North (to North Carolina) for college and New York and Michigan for post-graduate education. Her career was spent away as it was very hard for African-Americans to do well under segregation. "I left Lady's Island [in 1950], and I wouldn't take anything for leaving when I did, for the reasons I did, but I guess in my heart I never really left." (Marscher, Remembering the Way It Was at Beaufort, Sheldon and the Sea Islands, p. 61. Call # 975.799 MAR, BDC and LH sections). She ended her working life as the head of the community relations division of the Detroit Public School System. What brought her home, like many others through time, was the declining state of her mother's health in 1990. The Singleton interview compares and contrasts Dr. Barnwell's experience as a young African-American female in Beaufort County with her return much later in life as a retired professional adult. "Whites and blacks were separated by Law and custom. It was a despicable period. Thankfully, I say, things have changed for the better." (Singleton, Beaufort Through The Ages, pp. 130 - 133. Call # 975.799 SIN, BDC and LH sections)
A short post about the life and times of Grace White, a Marine Corps brat and the only woman in the George Washington School of Law graduating class of 1934, will appear in this blog within a few days. Stay tuned for more of the distaff!