Dereef’s Court The signature of Richard Dereef, son of Joseph Dereef. Courtesy of The South Carolina Historical Society.

 Dereef Court, Charleston, SC 29403


DeReef Court was named for Joseph (1802-1876) and Richard Edward DeReef (1798-1876), two successful free men of color in 19th-century Charleston. The brothers obtained their wealth through the purchase of real estate and establishing a lumber factory. Refusing to allow Charleston tax collectors to describe their status as “free mulattoes,” the brothers claimed their mother’s (Nancy DeReef), American Indian ancestry. The DeReef brothers challenged and won their case in the Court of Common Pleas (1823). The brothers were founding members of the Brown Fellowship Society, a benevolent society for free men of color.

DeReef Court is located between Jasper and Smith Streets in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1860, there were six houses on DeReef Court, four owned by Joseph Dereef. Census records indicate that a total of twenty-five people lived on DeReef Court in 1860 – twenty enslaved and five free persons of color.

For more information on the DeReef family and DeReef Court, see the DeReef Court and Park collection at the Avery Center for Research.