Since her beginning in 1663, Charleston has been a city of extremes.


She has been one of America’s richest cities, and one of its poorest; one of its most powerful, and one of its weakest; one of its most hated, and one of its most beloved.

In the early 1700s Charleston was England’s richest and most important city in the New World.

Yet, in 1776, a few hundred South Carolina militiamen defeated England’s world-renowned British Armada when the armada attacked Charleston, thus giving America its first major military victory of the Revolutionary War.

In 1861 Charleston started the Civil War by firing on Union-occupied Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor; and in 1865, when the war was lost and thousands of her residents were starving, tens of thousands of people from around the world came, not to help her, but to dance on her grave.

Yet, despite living under Jim Crow laws until deep into the 20th Century, by the year 2000 Charleston had become one of the most beloved cities in the world. Travel magazines repeatedly award her such titles as “Best City in the United States,” “Second-best city in the world,” “America’s Most Friendly City,” and, for 11 consecutive years, “The Most Mannerly City in America.”

How did Charleston do it? The story of Charleston is long and complicated, but award-winning newspaperman Skip Johnson tells it clearly in this fast-moving, highly readable primer, designed specifically to give readers a quick, easy and economical way to learn that incredible story.