About 500 years ago in France, during the Protestant Reformation, a growing group of independent clergy, scholars and laymen believed that spiritual seekers should interpret the gospel for themselves. Salvation, they said, came not from doctrine or works, but from faith alone.
These French Protestants became known as Huguenots. What began as a religious debate became a story of war, persecution and exile as the Huguenots challenged both the monarchy and the Roman Catholic Church for the right to worship as they chose. In 1685, by order of the French king, these religionnaires were forbidden to leave France and ordered to convert. If they refused, men were condemned to the galleys, women were imprisoned and children were taken from their families.
Rather than forsake their faith, many Huguenots left their homes, families, jobs and the life they knew in search of a place where they could worship and live freely. They endured a treacherous journey across the Atlantic and arrived seeking freedom in an unknown country whose language they did not speak. They had to begin again, suffering through illness, famine, poverty and discrimination.
Over time, they built new lives. They gained the right to vote, sought representation in government and played vital roles in the shaping of their new home and country. Many of the Huguenots and their descendants are some of the most influential people in American history.
Their independent spirit and determination in the face of persecution is as inspiring today as it was the day their first ship arrived. The Huguenot Society of South Carolina celebrates their courage by preserving and sharing their story with their descendants and the world. We honor their commitment to family by maintaining records of their lineage to share with their extended families. We carry on the Huguenot’s legacy because we believe to know who you are, you need to know who you were.