Despite its reputation as a melting pot of ethnicities and races, the United States has a well-documented history of immigrants who have struggled through isolation, segregation, discrimination, oppression, and assimilation. South Carolina is home to one such group—known historically and derisively as “the Turks”—which can trace its oral history back to Joseph Benenhaley, an Ottoman refugee from Old World conflict. According to its traditional narrative, Benenhaley served with Gen. Thomas Sumter in the Revolutionary War. His dark-hued descendants lived insular lives in rural Sumter County for the next two centuries, and only in recent decades have they enjoyed the full blessings of the American experience.
Glenn Browder and Terri Ognibene, authors of South Carolina’s Turkish People (2018, University of S. C. Press) talk with Dr. Edgar about their new book, which confirms the group’s traditional narrative through exhaustive original research and oral interviews.
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