The area is known as "The First Self-Governed Freedmen’s Town in America" and was originally formed on Hilton Head Island. Before the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863 and at the height of the Civil War, a group of escaped slaves, considered “contraband of war,” set about forming their own town on the grounds of a former plantation. Rather than one of the more prevalent camps, Union General Ormsby Mitchel created an actual town — with orderly streets, wooden homes, a church, and most importantly, freedom for its inhabitants. The newly minted citizens went about their business with elections, enacting the state’s first compulsory education law for African Americans, collecting taxes, making a living and naming their town “Mitchelville” in honor of the forwardthinking general.
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