“The Country abounds every where with large Swamps, which, when cleared, opened, and sweetened by Culture, yield plentiful Crops of Rice: along the Banks of our Rivers and Creeks, there are also Swamps and Marshes, fit either for Rice, or, by the Hardness of their Bottoms, for Pasturage.”


Africans were experienced rice growers.


Growing Carolina Gold

When and how rice was introduced into the Carolina colony are the subjects of legend and folklore. In 1802 Governor Drayton wrote that “rice was first planted in South Carolina, about the year 1688: when by chance a little of it, of a small unprofitable kind, was introduced into the state.” Although we may not know how it arrived, there is no doubt rice made a permanent mark on the economy and society of the region and the state.

Before the invention of the steam engine, before people sought to harness the power of tides, rice was grown by constructing elaborate systems of banks, canals and ditches in the inland swamps and marshes of the Lowcountry. The enormity of this undertaking, all through manual labor, and the skill with which it was done is difficult to comprehend. All of this monumental architecture was carved out of the wilderness of the new colony through the labor and knowledge of an enslaved African work force.

Further Exploration

Memoirs of the Introduction and Planting of Rice in South Carolina
by R. F. W. Allston, Miller and Browne, Charleston, South Caorlina, 1843.

Travels through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida
by William Bartram, reprinted University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville, 1980.

Black Rice: The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas
by Judith Carney, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2001.

Seed from Madagascar
by Duncan Clinch Heyward, University of South Carolina Press, reprinted 1993.

In the Shadow of Slavery, Africa’s Botanical Legacy in the Atlantic World
by Judith Carney and Richard Nicholas Rosomoff, University of California Press, Los Angeles, 2009.

Growing rice.

Growing rice.