There’s no way to truly and completely understand South Carolina  without a close look at its African American background, which is so integral to the state’s history. Of particular interest is the story of the Gullah people, descendants of slaves whose culture survived in relative isolation on South Carolina’s Sea Islands after the Civil War. This one-week journey takes you to all the key stops.
From your base in Beaufort, explore the Gullah community of St. Helena Island, including the Penn Center , where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once organized civil rights activists. In the afternoon pay your respects to African American Civil War hero Robert Smalls at his memorial at the Tabernacle Baptist Church , and see his former home on Prince Street. View the Berners Barnwell Sams House , where Harriet Tubman once worked as a nurse.
Get up bright and early for a drive to Hilton Head Island  to explore the remnants of African American history there, including the old Fort Mitchel and Mitchelville  site where the first freedman’s community in America once stood. Take the ferry to Daufuskie Island  and spend the balance of the day relaxing and getting in touch with the substantial Gullah culture there, including the Mary Field School, where author Pat Conroy  once taught.
Drive inland a little ways to Walterboro , where you’ll pay your respects at the Tuskegee Airmen Memorial  and browse the folk art at the South Carolina Artisans Center . Then head to Charleston  to begin your two-day stay there. On the way into town stop at Drayton Hall  along the Ashley River, Charleston’s oldest surviving plantation home. There’s a program exploring African American life at the plantation as well as a slave cemetery.
Spend the day exploring the well-preserved African American history at the Aiken-Rhett House  and visit the Old Slave Mart  museum downtown. For a more intensive educational experience, pay a visit to the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture at the College of Charleston . Randolph Hall and the historic “Cistern” on the C-of-C campus hosted Barack Obama during a campaign rally in January 2008.
Your last day in Charleston  will be spent in and around the suburb of Mount Pleasant, visiting several key sites. With a stop along U.S. 17 to buy a sweetgrass basket from a roadside vendor, head to Boone Hall Plantation , which has ten of the best-restored antebellum slave quarters in America, with excellent interpretive programming. Just down the road is the Charles Pinckey National Historic Site , commemorating the life of the early abolitionist and co-author of the U.S. Constitution.
End your day with a visit to relaxing Sullivan’s Island  and Fort Moultrie. Nearby you’ll find the “bench by the road,” a monument to the million or so slaves who first embarked in America at Sullivan’s Island, which was inspired by a line from a book by Toni Morrison.
Drive up U.S. 17 to Georgetown , birthplace of comedian Chris Rock and once the main seaport for South Carolina’s rice economy. Visit the Rice Museum  to learn about the history and daily life of area plantations.