From the late 1700s to 1865 slave tags (or slave badges) were used by slave owners in Charleston in order to mark their property when slaves were allowed off the plantation.
Other cities employed a tag system but Charleston was the epicenter of American slave trade and such, it had the most substantial program in existence at the time. Slaves and free people of color had to register with the city and wear metal tags that carried a one-word description of the Slave’s skill: ‘porter, ‘servant’, ‘mechanic’, ‘fisher’, ‘fruiterer’ and even ‘huckster’ for a slave skilled in sales. Slave owners had to pay an annual registration fee, based skill of the servant, and could “rent” their property out to those in need.
Slave tags represent a dark period of our city’s history, it gives documented proof that the Holy City was indeed built upon the backs of the downtrodden.
But too often, the ugly is hidden behind rose-tinted glasses. While we still hope to show the beauty that exist in Charleston (and around the Deep South), we will not run from speaking our mind about situations that many would deem uncomfortable.
We will not be polite when discussing economic disparities. We will not be civil when discussing discrimination. We are not concerned with your fragility. We will not shrink ourselves for your comfort and we will encourage others to do the same.
We will test the limits of your rhetoric on the subjects of unity, inclusion, understanding, and freedom of speech through our work in the community and the products we offer.
Welcome to the Holy City.