Early in the twentieth century, for-profit companies such as Duke Power and South Carolina Electric and Gas brought electricity to populous cities and towns across South Carolina, while rural areas remained in the dark. It was not until the advent of publicly owned electric cooperatives in the 1930s that the South Carolina countryside was gradually introduced to the conveniences of life with electricity. Today, electric cooperatives serve more than a quarter of South Carolina's citizens and more than seventy percent of the state's land area, bringing not only power but also high-speed broadband to rural communities.
The rise of "public" power—electricity serviced by member-owned cooperatives and sanctioned by federal and state legislation—is a complicated saga encompassing politics, law, finance, and rural economic development. Empowering Communities examines how the cooperatives helped bring fundamental and transformational change to the lives of rural people in South Carolina, from light to broadband.
James E. Clyburn, the majority whip of the U.S. House of Representatives from South Carolina, provides a foreword.
Lacy K. Ford, professor of history at the University of South Carolina, is the author of several books, including Deliver Us from Evil: The Slavery Question in the Old South.