Representing the ability of slaves and freed people to create cultural institutions under the most oppressive of conditions, Moving Star Hall continued to serve the people of Johns Island as a place of worship and a community center into the 1960s.
(Johns Island). Located in the South Carolina lowcountry, Moving Star Hall provides an example of an antebellum “praise house” that served the slave community, and later the freed people, as a center of social and cultural life. “The Hall,” as the people of Johns Island referred to it, featured intense, all-night “prayings” in an expressive and egalitarian worship style. John Smalls, a longtime member of the Hall, told interviewers in the 1960s, “We don’t charge nothing to come in Moving Star Hall . . . whether you are white, whether you are dark like myself, or different color, come in. . . . If you want to speak . . . you got the opportunity–we give it to you.”
Following emancipation, the Hall served as the headquarters of the Moving Star Society, a fraternal order whose services included both a burial and a “tend the sick” society. Representing the ability of slaves and freed people to create cultural institutions under the most oppressive of conditions, Moving Star Hall continued to serve the people of Johns Island as a place of worship and a community center into the 1960s.
As of 2001, Moving Star Hall provided a place of worship for an African American Pentecostal Church. This new congregation had not broken completely with older practices of worship at the Hall, as evidenced by the intermingling of modern gospel music and elements of the “ring shout” tradition in their worship. The folkways of the people of Johns Island were also kept alive by the Moving Star Hall Singers, who have shared the music of the Hall, stories of lowcountry life, and African folktales at the Charleston Spoleto Festival and the national festival of Afro-American Arts in Atlanta.
Carawan, Guy, and Candie Carawan. Ain’t You Got a Right to the Tree of Life? The People of Johns Island, South Carolina–Their Faces, Their Words, and Their Songs. Rev. ed. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1989.
Cooper, Nancy Ashmore. “Where Everybody Is Somebody: African American Churches in South Carolina.” In Religion in South Carolina, edited by Charles H. Lippy. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1993.