Hardly anyone outside of South Carolina acknowledges the French Huguenot presence in Charleston. Many of the city’s most prominent families – the Ravenels, the Laurens and the Legarés – are of French Huguenot descent. Their culture is an integral part of the city today.
A famous contemporary example of a Charlestonian French Huguenot is Congressman Arthur Ravenel, Jr., who is the namesake of the Arthur Ravenel Jr Bridge and served South Carolina’s First Congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from 1987-1995.
An area in the Southeastern quarter of the peninsula with a significant French Huguenot presence (as well as the city’s French Huguenot church) is referred to as the French Quarter by many Charlestonians.
Many non-Charlestonians seem to forget that we’re a unique Tidewaterese city, rather than a general Southern city. To outsiders we’re seen as the general ‘classical’ Deep South. It’s confusing to many of us here who see ourselves as Southern, but shaped by our many influences that aren’t conventionally ‘South Carolinian.’ Our culture reflects the French Huguenot, British, Sephardic, West African, German, Muskogean, Iroquoian and Siouan ancestry of our city’s inhabitants.
While we exhibit many speech patterns similar to the rest of South Carolina (namely the cheer-chair merger), many in South Carolina can instantly identify us by our speech. Our speech sounds West Indian (even Celtic or Canadian at times) and is closely related to that of Tidewater Virginia, the Outer Banks, Tangier Island and Smith Island. Many older people and some younger people in the city also speak Sea Island Creole, an English creole unique to the coastal counties of Southern North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Northern Florida. Unfortunately, migration from the North and our city being advertised as a ‘desirable place to relocate’ by the government of Mayor Joseph P Riley, Jr has diluted much of the city’s culture.