2005-02-25 / Travel

Coming to America

Part 3: African discovers his roots

“Do you mean this is my day?” he asked. Dr. Naby Camara slowly realized the significance of February 16 being declared Dr. Naby Camara Day in the City of Columbia by Mayor Bob Coble. “But it can’t be just my day. It is the day of alliance between Columbia and Farenya, my village.” So it is. And we decided to celebrate it every year.

During his second week in America, Dr. Camara underwent cataract surgery by Dr. Rick Milne at the Columbia Eye Clinic. It was successful and the second eye was scheduled for the next week.

Devon Greenan and Debbie Carter of Dr. Rick Milne’s office tend to the needs of Dr. Naby Camara.Devon Greenan and Debbie Carter of Dr. Rick Milne’s office tend to the needs of Dr. Naby Camara. While Dr. Camara was convalescing, Jim Fisher and I took him to the Lowcountry so he could make the connection between his village in Guinea, Farenya, and Charleston. Farenya’s founder, Capt. Styles Lightbourn, had a brother and sister in Charleston. The brother, Francis, owned a rice plantation on Wadmalaw Island, and the sister, Mary, was married to the mayor of Charleston, Thomas Bennett. The time period was 1800 to 1850. Over the past six years, we have discovered the movement of slaves from Farenya to Charleston and freed slaves from Charleston to Farenya.

Dr. Rick Milne and his assistant, Ronnie Sikes, remove the cataract from Dr. Naby Camara’s left eye.Dr. Rick Milne and his assistant, Ronnie Sikes, remove the cataract from Dr. Naby Camara’s left eye. In Charleston we met Dr. Alpha Bah, a historian at the College of Charleston who was originally from Guinea. Together we visited the Lightbourn plantation (now owned by Attorney Dana Sinkler), Lightbourn’s grave in the St. John’s cemetery, Lightbourn’s first wife’s grave in St. Phillips cemetery, and Lightbourn’s office on Meeting Stree in order to see the words written in the pages of history brought to life in actual places. We also visited Boone Hall Plantation to see the well– preserved brick slave cabins.

Dr. Camara visits a slave cabin at Boone Hall Plantation.Dr. Camara visits a slave cabin at Boone Hall Plantation. In Beaufort we took a carriage ride through the historic district and visited Penn Center, the site of the first school for black children after emancipation, and Oyotunji, the 25–year–old African village. Dr. Camara was interested in European settlement in SC, so we went up in the tower at Port Royal to observe the site of the first Spanish and French attempts at settlement in SC.

Our Lowcountry tour concluded at Hilton Head where we attended the Gullah Festival. Dr. Camara got the opportunity to converse with some African vendors in their native languages. Regrettably, there were no Gullah speakers at the festival.

Dr. Warner Montgomery and Dr. Camara sit beside the grave of Capt. Francis Lightbourn, the brother of the founder of Dr. Camara’s village in Guinea.
Dr. Warner Montgomery and Dr. Camara sit beside the grave of Capt. Francis Lightbourn, the brother of the founder of Dr. Camara’s village in Guinea. That night, we climbed the lighthouse at Sea Pines and watched the sunset over Daufuskie Island. Dr. Camara stretched his imagination to understand the plight of his fellow villagers who were taken to America. At the same time, he bemoaned the current situation of those who were left behind.

Dr. Jim Fisher and Dr. Camara test a 19th century cannon on the Charleston Battery.Dr. Jim Fisher and Dr. Camara test a 19th century cannon on the Charleston Battery. Dr. Naby Camara tours the low country

Dr.  Camara stands with two citizens of Oyotunji, an African village in Beaufort County.

Dr. Camara stands with two citizens of Oyotunji, an African village in Beaufort County. Dr. Camara sits on the dock of Rosebank Plantation on Wadmalaw Island which was once owned by Capt. Francis Lightbourn.Dr. Camara sits on the dock of Rosebank Plantation on Wadmalaw Island which was once owned by Capt. Francis Lightbourn.Dr. Camara befriends a promoter of the old Negro Baseball League at the Gullah Festival in Hilton Head.Dr. Camara befriends a promoter of the old Negro Baseball League at the Gullah Festival in Hilton Head.Dr. Camara and the horse, Sam, after a carriage ride through historic Beaufort.

Dr. Camara and the horse, Sam, after a carriage ride through historic Beaufort. Dr. Camara and Dr. Alpha Bah stand beside a slave cabin on Rosebank Plantation.Dr. Camara and Dr. Alpha Bah stand beside a slave cabin on Rosebank Plantation.Dr. Camara and Dr. Jim Fisher on the tower at Port Royal.

Dr. Camara and Dr. Jim Fisher on the tower at Port Royal. Dr. Camara makes his first purchase in an American grocery store.
Dr. Camara makes his first purchase in an American grocery store.

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