Upheaval in Charleston
Earthquake and Murder on the Eve of Jim Crow

Susan Millar Williams and Stephen G. Hoffius

How the great Charleston earthquake forever changed an iconic southern city


"In 1886 an earthquake devastated Charleston as thoroughly as one did San Francisco twenty years later. South Carolina historians Williams and Hoffius present a vivid account of the disaster and the political aftermath."
Publishers Weekly

"This is a tale of upheaval, in terms of both the earthquake and the politics, as the issue of segregation and Jim Crow became increasingly pressing. Recommended for those who appreciate books on natural disasters, American history, and the secret goings-on of the political world."
Library Journal

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On August 31, 1886, a massive earthquake centered near Charleston, South Carolina, sent shock waves as far north as Maine, down into Florida, and west to the Mississippi River. When the dust settled, residents of the old port city were devastated by the death and destruction.

Upheaval in Charleston is a gripping account of natural disaster and turbulent social change in a city known as the cradle of secession. Weaving together the emotionally charged stories of Confederate veterans and former slaves, Susan Millar Williams and Stephen G. Hoffius portray a South where whites and blacks struggled to determine how they would coexist a generation after the end of the Civil War.

This is also the story of Francis Warrington Dawson, a British expatriate drawn to the South by the romance of the Confederacy. As editor of Charleston’s News and Courier, Dawson walked a lonely and dangerous path, risking his life and reputation to find common ground between the races. Hailed as a hero in the aftermath of the earthquake, Dawson was denounced by white supremacists and murdered less than three years after the disaster. His killer was acquitted after a sensational trial that unmasked a Charleston underworld of decadence and corruption.

Combining careful research with suspenseful storytelling, Upheaval in Charleston offers a vivid portrait of a volatile time and an anguished place.

Page count: 384 pp.
36 b&w photos, 2 maps
Trim size: 6 x 9


List price: $26.95

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Susan Millar Williams is the author of A Devil and a Good Woman, Too: The Lives of Julia Peterkin, winner of the Julia Cherry Spruill Award. She teaches American literature and creative writing at Trident Technical College and lives in McClellanville, South Carolina. Stephen G. Hoffius is the author of Winners and Losers, a prize-winning novel for young adults, and coeditor of The Landscape of Slavery: The Plantation in American Art and Northern Money, Southern Land: The Lowcountry Plantation Sketches of Chlotilde R. Martin. A freelance author and editor, he lives in Charleston.