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Sullivan's Island, South Carolina
Sullivan's Island viewed from Fort Moultrie
Sullivan's Island viewed from Fort Moultrie
Country United States
State South Carolina
County Charleston
Settled 17th century (as O'Sullivan's Island)
Named for Captain Florence O'Sullivan
 • Total 3.44 sq mi (8.91 km2)
 • Land 2.50 sq mi (6.47 km2)
 • Water 0.94 sq mi (2.44 km2)
9 ft (3 m)
 • Total 1,791
 • Estimate 
 • Density 770.22/sq mi (297.38/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 843, 854
FIPS code 45-70090
GNIS feature ID 1231842

Sullivan's Island is a town and island in Charleston County, South Carolina, United States, at the entrance to Charleston Harbor, with a population of 1,791 at the 2010 census. The town is part of the Charleston metropolitan area, and is considered a very affluent suburb of Charleston.

Sullivan's Island was the point of entry for approximately 40 to 50 percent of the 400,000 enslaved Africans brought to Colonial America, meaning that 99% of all African Americans have ancestors that came through the island. It has been likened to Ellis Island, the 19th-century reception point for immigrants in New York City. During the American Revolution, the island was the site of a major battle at Fort Sullivan on June 28, 1776, since renamed Fort Moultrie in honor of the American commander at the battle.

On September 23, 1989, Hurricane Hugo came ashore near Sullivan's Island; few people were prepared for the destruction that followed in its wake. The eye of the hurricane passed directly over Sullivan's Island. The Ben Sawyer Bridge was a casualty, breaking free of its locks. Before the storm was over, one end of the bridge was in the water and the other was pointing skyward. Sullivan's Island police chief, Jack Lilien, was the last person to leave the island before the bridge gave way.


Condos on Sullivans Island
Circa 1900 building on Sullivan's Island, renovated for use as condominiums

The island was known as O'Sullivan's Island, named for Captain Florence O'Sullivan, who was stationed here as a lighthouse keeper in the late 17th century. O'Sullivan was captain of one of the ships in the first fleet to establish English and Irish settlement at Charleston. In 1671, he became surveyor general. He appears in the earliest record of Irish immigration to the Carolinas, mentioned as being taken on "at Kingsayle (Kinsale) in Ireland".

Sullivan's Island was the disembarkation port for over 40% of the estimated 400,000 slaves transported from Africa to the Britain's North American Colonies, making it the largest slave port in North America. It is estimated that nearly half of all African Americans have ancestors who passed through Sullivan's Island.

"There is no suitable memorial, or plaque, or wreath or wall, or park or skyscraper lobby," writer Toni Morrison said in 1989. "There's no 300-foot tower, there's no small bench by the road."

On July 26, 2008, the Toni Morrison Society dedicated a small bench on Sullivan's Island to the memory of the Africans forced into slavery [5] ; the memorial was privately funded.

Albert Wheeler Todd, an architect from Charleston, designed a town hall for the island.

The Atlanticville Historic District, Battery Gadsden, Battery Thomson, Fort Moultrie Quartermaster and Support Facilities Historic District, Moultrieville Historic District, Dr. John B. Patrick House, Sullivan's Island Historic District, and U.S. Coast Guard Historic District are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Fort Moultrie

Battle of Sullivans Island
The Moultrie Flag (also known as the Liberty Flag) being raised over Fort Moultrie, after its successful defense against British invaders

On June 28, 1776, an incomplete fort was held by colonial forces under Colonel William Moultrie against an onslaught by the British under General Sir Henry Clinton's army sailing with Commodore Sir Peter Parker's men-of-war. The British cannon had no effect on the sand-filled palmetto log walls of the fort; only the shots that came over the walls took any lives.

During this battle, a flag designed by Moultrie flew over the fortress; it was dark blue with a crescent moon on it bearing the word "liberty". When this flag was shot down, Sergeant William Jasper reportedly picked it up and held it aloft, rallying the troops until a new standard could be provided. Because of the importance of this pivotal battle that flag became symbolic of liberty in South Carolina, the South, and the nation as a whole.

The Battle of Sullivan's Island was commemorated by the addition of a white palmetto tree to the flag used to rally that day, the Moultrie Flag; this became the basis of the flag of South Carolina. The victory is celebrated and June 28 is known as Carolina Day.

The history of the island has been dominated by Fort Moultrie, which, until its closure in the late 1940s, served as the base of command for the defense of Charleston. After World War II, the Department of Defense concluded that such coastal defense installations were no longer needed given current technology and style of war.


Sullivan's Island is located along the Atlantic Ocean near the center of Charleston County. The town is bordered to the west by the entrance to Charleston Harbor, to the north by the Intracoastal Waterway, and to the east by Breach Inlet and Swinton Creek. The Ben Sawyer Bridge connects Sullivan's Island to Mount Pleasant to the north. A bridge spanning Breach Inlet connects it to Isle of Palms to the east. By road it is 9 miles (14 km) north and then west into Charleston.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the town of Sullivan's Island has a total area of 3.4 square miles (8.9 km2), of which 2.5 square miles (6.5 km2) is land and 0.93 square miles (2.4 km2), or 27.36%, is water.


The town of Sullivan's Island is served by the Charleston International Airport. It is located in the City of North Charleston and is about 12 miles (20 km) northwest of Sullivan's Island. It is the busiest passenger airport in South Carolina (IATA: CHSICAO: KCHS). The airport shares runways with the adjacent Charleston Air Force Base. Charleston Executive Airport is a smaller airport located in the John's Island section of the city of Charleston and is used by noncommercial aircraft. Both airports are owned and operated by the Charleston County Aviation Authority.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1960 1,358
1970 1,426 5.0%
1980 1,867 30.9%
1990 1,623 −13.1%
2000 1,911 17.7%
2010 1,791 −6.3%
2019 (est.) 1,924 7.4%
U.S. Decennial Census
Sullivans Island in South Carolina
The beach at Sullivan's Island

2020 census

Sullivan's Island racial composition
Race Num. Perc.
White (non-Hispanic) 1,770 93.6%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 7 0.37%
Asian 16 0.85%
Other/Mixed 51 2.7%
Hispanic or Latino 47 2.49%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 1,891 people, 821 households, and 619 families residing in the town.


As of 2016 the largest self-reported ancestries/ethnicities in Sullivan's Island, South Carolina were:

Largest ancestries (2016) Percent
English 19.5%
German 14.0%
Irish 12.6%
"American" 11.5%
French 10.0%
Scottish 6.0%
Italian 3.4%
Russian 2.8%
Polish 2.0%
Dutch 1.6%

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See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Sullivan's Island para niños

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