South Carolina Picture Project
South Carolina Picture Project

Moving Star Hall — Johns Island, South Carolina

SC Picture Project  |  Charleston County  |  Moving Star Hall

Adopt A South Carolina Landmark
Moving Star Hall

This rustic building on Johns Island was built around 1917 as a praise house and meeting hall for the Moving Star Association, a religious and charitable organization established on the island in the early twentieth century. Praise houses were prevalent on plantations prior to Emancipation as places where slaves could meet and practice their religion. The term “praise house” is thought to come from the phrase “prays house.” The structures prior to Emancipation were small so as to prevent large gatherings of slaves due to planters’ fears of insurrections. Following the Civil War, newly-freed slaves continued to worship in praise houses, and several were built into the twentieth century such as this one. Built several years after Emancipation, Moving Star did not serve as a church but functioned as a community building that was also used for informal religious celebrations of prayer and music; music was an especially significant factor of the Moving Star praise house. Such praise meetings were held several evenings a week and were interdenominational.

Moving Star Praise Hall

Bill Fitzpatrick of Taylors, 2013 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Mutual aid societies such as the Moving Star Association were formed in free black communities prior to the Civil War. The organizations used membership dues to help each other pay for medical care, funerals, housing, food, and whatever assistance another member needed. Following the war, similar organizations continued and served even more people. Moving Star was especially important on Johns Island, as the island community had few resources and no direct access to the mainland at the time the organization formed. When the neighboring Progressive Club was founded on Johns Island in 1948 by Esau Jenkins, the mission of the new club included many of the same goals as that of Moving Star, and the two groups worked together to reach them.

Moving Star Praise House

Bill Fitzpatrick of Taylors, 2013 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

A major difference between Moving Star and the Progressive Club was that the latter sought to encourage black residents to vote. Many of the Progressive Club’s members came from Moving Star, and the newer group even used the praise house for its initial meetings. Over time, the Progressive Club erected its own building on the island, and as more people began to move into the city, the Progressive Club and Moving Star became obsolete. Moving Star formally closed in 1977. However, the hall still stands and is known for its history of local African-American music, which was preserved through the years with the forming of the Moving Star Singers in the 1960s. Occasionally concerts and other functions are held in the historic building.

Moving Star Hall is listed in the National Register:

Moving Star Hall, built ca. 1917, is significant as the only remaining praise house of the South Carolina Sea Islands that has been identified. It functioned as the meeting place of the Moving Star Young Association, a religious, social, fraternal, and charitable community institution, and is significant for its role in preserving black music and religious and social/humanitarian traditions. Largely supplanted by churches after emancipation, the praise house represented a survival of a purely plantation institution into the early twentieth century. The praise house functioned as a community meeting hall, place of religious worship, center for spreading news, and face-to-face gathering place to promote community solidarity. The crudely built, one-story, rectangular, frame, weatherboarded building is set on low concrete block pillars and has a metal-covered gable roof. The façade has a hip-roofed porch, which originally had four wooden post supports and a plank floor. The posts have been replaced by two modern wrought iron uprights set at each forward corner. At the time the praise house was built, Johns Island was geographically isolated from the mainland. Until the mid-1970s, Moving Star Hall housed a “tend-the-sick” and burial society, a secret fraternal order, and a community of worship. One outbuilding, a privy, is located to the rear.

Moving Star Hall Info

Address: River Road, Johns Island, SC 29455
GPS Coordinates: 32.68378,-80.02435

Moving Star Hall Map

Please Share Your Thoughts!

Did you enjoy this page? Do you have any information we should add? Send us your comments below — we can't wait to hear from you!

One Comment about Moving Star Hall

Elaine says:
March 1st, 2019 at 2:17 pm

Thank you for this very informative page. What is the status of the building on River Road now? Just went by it and looks like it is still a meeting place. Are there any plans to put up a commerative sign? Would appreciate any info you have. Thank you.


Join Us on Facebook
Search for Landmarks


Abbeville ACE Basin Adams Run Aiken Allendale Anderson Awendaw Bamberg Banks Barns & Farms Barnwell Batesburg-Leesville Beaches Beaufort Beech Island Belton Bennettsville Bishopville Blackville Bluffton Bridges Bygone Landmarks Camden Carnegie Libraries Cayce Cemeteries Charleston Charleston Navy Base Cheraw Chester Chesterfield Churches Clemson Clinton Clio Colleges Columbia Conway Cordesville Courthouses Darlington Daufuskie Island Denmark Dillon Donalds Easley Edgefield Edisto Elloree Erhardt Eutawville Fairfax Florence Folly Beach Forests and Nature Preserves Fort Mill Fountain Inn Gaffney Garden City Beach Georgetown Glenn Springs Graniteville Great Falls Greeleyville Greenville Greenwood Greer Hamburg Hampton Hardeeville Hartsville Hemingway Hilton Head Historical Photos Historic Houses Holly Hill Honea Path Hopkins Hotels & Inns Huger Hunting Island Isle of Palms Jails James Island Jamestown Johns Island Johnsonville Johnston Kiawah Island Kingstree Lake City Lake Marion Lakes Lancaster Landrum Latta Laurens Lexington Libraries Lighthouses Little River Lowndesville Manning Marion McClellanville McCormick Military Mills Moncks Corner Mountains Mount Carmel Mount Pleasant Mullins Murrells Inlet Myrtle Beach National Register Newberry Ninety Six North Augusta North Charleston North Myrtle Beach Orangeburg Pacolet Parks Pawleys Island Pendleton Pickens Piers Pinewood Pinopolis Plantations Pomaria Port Royal Post Offices Prosperity Ravenel Restaurants Ridgeland Ridge Spring Ridgeway Rivers Roadside Oddities Robert Mills Rock Hill Rockville Rosenwald Schools Salters Saluda Santee Savannah River Site SC Artists SC Heroes of the Alamo Schools Seneca Shrimp Boats Society Hill Spartanburg Sports Springs St. George St. Helena Island St. Matthews Stateburg Stores Sullivan's Island Summerton Summerville Sumter Sunset Sunsets Synagogues Town Clocks Trains & Depots Trees Trenton Troy Turbeville Ulmer Union Wadmalaw Island Walhalla Walterboro Ware Shoals Waterfalls Water Towers Wedgefield West Columbia Westminster Winnsboro Woodruff Yemassee York