Abstract This article examines the cultural antecedents of rice cultivation in South Carolina, arguing that its establishment in the colony represents the transfer of an African knowledge system via slavery to the Americas. Slaves from West Africa's rice region provided the critical knowledge that transformed lowland environments for the cereal's cultivation, which would lead Carolina rice to global economic prominence. The ecological, ethnic and gendered basis of this knowledge system are examined historically in West Africa's rice region, where a separate species of rice was domesticated more than two thousand years ago. An overview of African land use, methods of cultivation, and processing reveal the lineaments of African rice culture in South Carolina. The familiar motif of Uncle Ben on packages of converted rice represents an enduring social memory of that legacy.