It may not come as a surprise that what we know about Charleston’s history is not necessarily the truth. Many of the stories recorded in the history books were written with biased perspectives, ignoring marginalized voices.

On this episode of Speaking of … College of Charleston, CofC’s official podcast, we talk with author and professional tour guide Leigh Jones Handal ’81, who says the true history of the Holy City doesn’t need any embellishment.

“The truth is interesting enough,” she says.

Handal should know. In 2011, she helped co-write and edit the tour guide training manual that, until it was struck down by a lawsuit in 2018, was required reading for professional Charleston tour guides.

In her latest book, Storied & Scandalous Charleston, a History of Piracy and Prohibition, Rebellion and Revolution, Handal, who majored in English at the College, highlights well-documented, captivating events like when the famed Jenkins Orchestra Band had a command performance for King George VI in England and the time convicted inmate John Fisher chose to remain at the Old City Jail with his wife, Lavinia, to die on the gallows instead of taking his chance at freedom.

Handal is the perfect guide for those who want to dive deeper into the history of Charleston, and says she loves bringing visitors to graveyards. “I could spend most of my day hanging out in graveyards. I like dead people, and I like to find out about them because everybody has a story to tell.”

Featured on this Episode:

Leigh Jones Handal ’81 has been an avid student of Charleston’s history since she was a Brownie Scout. Handal has been a licensed tour guide for more than 20 years and owns her own tour company, Charleston Raconteurs. She also serves as chief advancement officer at the American College of Building Arts, where she once had an office at the Charleston District Jail, just down the hall from where Lavinia Fisher awaited her execution.

Resources on this Episode:

Storied & Scandalous Charleston, a History of Piracy and Prohibition, Rebellion and Revolution

Lost Charleston