Richard Edward DeReef was born in 1798 and very little is known about his childhood. As one of the richest black men in Charleston, South Carolina, he also owned several rental properties and established a lumber factory. However, he was not accepted to in the Elite Society of Charleston’s Mulatto organization because of his dark complexion. Along with his brother Joseph, the pair founded the Brown Fellowship Society, a benevolent organization for free men of color.
In 1854, DeReef Court, an African-American residential housing community in Charleston, was established. Named after Joseph and Richard Edward DeReef, DeReef Court is located between Jasper and Smith Streets and DeReef Park is bordered by Morris Street in Charleston, South Carolina. The neighborhood was known for its vibrancy between 1854 and the 1960s. During the 20th century, the Court and Park’s neighbors included the former Brooks Motel, Shiloh AME Church, and the Cannon Street YMCA. The neighborhood fell into decline during the late part of the 20th century.