While most people know Hilton Head Island for its beaches and golf courses, the Island is also home to places rich in both culture and American history. While on the Island, make time to visit historical Mitchelville, known as the birthplace of African-American freedom, located on the north-end of the Island on Beach City Road.
As America’s first post-Civil War settlement for freed slaves, the story behind the founding Mitchelville is an important one in our country’s history. On November 7, 1861 more than 12,000 Union soldiers landed on Hilton Head Island and the Union fleet captured both Fort Beauregard near Beaufort and Fort Walker on Hilton Head Island. The Island fell into the hands of Federal troops, forcing Island families to evacuate their plantation homes leaving behind nearly 1500 slaves.
Those African-Americans set the course for Mitchelville, which was established as the First Freedmen’s village under Major General Ormsby Mitchel in 1862. Today, direct descendants of Mitchelville – local Gullah -- carry on the traditions of their ancestors and work, along with others throughout Hilton Head Island, to preserve and promote Mitchelville and highlight its importance in both local, and U.S., history.
Mitchelville Beach Park has one of the most natural beach settings you will find on Hilton Head Island (with only a pathway to the beach, it is not considered wheel chair accessible, however.) There are restrooms, outdoor showers and picnic tables for your enjoyment and parking is free.
The Gullah Culture is still an important part of Hilton Head Island and its history, and is celebrated during the month long Gullah Celebration every February. The Hilton Head Island Gullah Celebration, which showcases the rich cultural heritage of the Gullah people and their history on Island, has been recognized by the Southeast Tourism Society as one of the Top 20 Events in the Southeast.