Charleston, South Carolina, is a city that markets itself as a center of heritage tourism. With millions of tourists visiting each year to see its historic architecture and landscaped gardens, how can public historians and public history professionals in Charleston and the Lowcountry accurately share the stories of workers, both enslaved and free, who built and fundamentally shaped the regional cultural landscape? The authors of this collaborative essay explore different avenues for ensuring that labor history and heritage—past and present—becomes integrated in the public history of the city and region. Through her work in historical interpretation at the McLeod Plantation Historic Site and the Lowcountry Digital History Initiative, Leah Worthington explores ways of publicly interpreting how enslaved people shaped the natural and structural landscapes of the Lowcountry—landscapes that are at the heart of the historical tourism industry. Rachel Donaldson examines the significance of the places of labor history and the importance of recognizing and preserving these sites as integral features of the region’s built environment. With the assistance of oral histories conducted with Leonard Riley Jr., a longshoreman and member of the International Longshoremen’s Association, her focus on the historical and contemporary significance of International Longshoremen’s halls in downtown Charleston sheds light on how sites like these have facilitated, and can continue to facilitate, labor and social activism. As Kieran Taylor argues, Charleston has a rich history of protest that fuses traditional labor demands for better wages and working conditions with demands for racial equality and black power. His project examines the efforts of African American workers in recent years to harness those traditions to build worker power at fast food restaurants, in hospitals, and in public services throughout the region.

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