By Dias Dobson, Gantt Center

Jonathan Green — the painter whose work, A Spiritual Journey of life, is currently on display at the Gantt Center — is more than an artist: he’s a visionary, an intellectual and a history teacher. As a proud South Carolina native, Green has made it his personal mission to educate the world on the history of rice cultivation in the Low Country.

While listening to Green during the exhibition’s opening weekend, it seemed like rice was always the topic of discussion. He wants to create an ongoing dialogue and bring attention to the often untold story of the Low Country rice culture that played a major role in the economic success of the United States. During the 1700s, the key to the success of the rice culture lay in finding an area in the US that could produce a tremendous volume of rice. Spanning from the North Carolina coast of Wilmington through South Carolina, Georgia and to Jacksonville, Florida, the rice fields of the Low Country produced what has been called “Carolina Gold” making Charleston, South Carolina one of the richest cities in the United States for over 100 years.

Green has been working with scholars from the University of South Carolina, the College of Charleston and the University of South Carolina at Beaufort, as well as with various cultural institutions and National Park Districts, to create a rice symposium that will take place in October 2013.

He considers rice so representational of the artistic, musical, linguistic, food-way and economic contributions made by Africans to American culture, that he’s used R.I.C.E as an acronym for Race, Ingenuity/Injustice, Culture, and Economy. The project’s stated mission is to “reveal and reclaim the shared cultural inheritance of the southeastern rice economy as a basis for promoting community development and advancing the cause of human dignity.”

Green wants to focus on the incredible contributions enslaved Africans made to the rice economy, which lasted well over 200 years, literally building the southeastern United States. The idea of the Rice Project is finding pride in a horrendous history. He wants to look at all that it took to prepare the rice fields; including moving hundreds of cypress logs, creating the dykes, and creating the infrastructure.

With his Rice Project, Green hopes to educate people about the heritage of the Low Country, as well as create a platform for honest, informative discussions around the culture and history of rice.

Artist Jonathan Green

Artist Jonathan Green


5 Responses to “Jonathan Green: The Low Country rice culture”

  1. Mel Garber says:

    I found this article very interesting and important not for those in the lowlands and rice growing areas of the southeast, but also to those like me from the west coast of Africa and Sierra Leone in particular, where many of our brethren were taken from.

    • Barry Brown says:

      Jonathan thanks for pointing me in the direction of this site look forward to reading and hearing more

  2. inez v jenkins says:

    Good Afternoon. I am very pleased to see the”Unenslaved” in the paper,on yesterday. I do plan to come see it , I do think it,s this coming thurs at Avery Ins.I would like to see what wonderful prints you have to get, so I can get one for Celesia. Hope to sere you then. Mrs Jenkins.

  3. Barbara Ray says:

    Jonathan, I read your article in the Fayetteville Observer 8/26/2013 and I was very happy and proud to see the beautiful positives on “Rice can build bridges”! This will help to build a better America for all Americans! There is so much not understood by others on the history of the South and how we all got here and how most all worked together to build it, with blood, sweat, and tears. It seems we have forgotten where we came from or how we worked together to build this South, but this project should help show who and what we southerns are all about. That includes all our histories of coming from our foreign homes and that we are all Americans now, no matter where we landed. We all have a story 0to tell! Thank you! I can’t wait to get back down to Charleston, soon! Oh, my mother’s family in Johnston Co NC, helped by running an underground RR! I remember as a child we had such an extented family of aunts an uncles and cousins! Keep up the good work!

  4. Ty Collins says:

    Jonathan, The low country rice project has been a game changer for the Middleton Place Historic Site where I volunteer as a Nature Walk Guide and an African-American Focus tour guide. Until you took on the challenge to bring an African-descended voice on this subject matter and especially to this specific locale, one was left with the distinct impression that West African folkways and rice culture were secondary to the spoils of prominent families of the Civil War, especially in this sesquicentennial observance and commemoration of the 21st century. Thanks to your project, you are quoted, paraphrased, revered and acknowledged for bringing insight and inclusion to South Carolina’s origins of growth and development to American economic sustainability. Thankfully, you brought an end to the conspicuous absence of European descendants who have assumed positions of authority on the subject.

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