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.
Sullivan's Island was the point of entry for approximately 40 percent of the 400,000 enslaved Africans brought to British North America; it has been likened to a harsh 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 renamedFort 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.
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.
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.