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Gullah Geechee File Suit To Stay On Sapelo Island

Dec 9, 2015
Sam Whitehead / GPB

Members of Sapelo Island’s Gullah Geechee community are suing local and state governments for practices they say are threatening their ability to live on land they've called home for generations.

Reed Colfax is an attorney representing the group and says many are descendants of slaves.

“When those slaves were freed after the Civil War, many started creating their own communities, had their own lives,” he says. “It was an extraordinary thing, and it's being ignored now.”

 

Gabrielle Ware / GPB

Daufuskie island's population peaked in the 1940s with more than a thousand residents, mostly descendants of freed slaves brought to the coast to harvest rice and sea cotton.

Today, this quiet community has less than 100 people and is nestled between Savannah, Georgia and Hilton Head, South Carolina. Once, Daufuskie Island was a home to Gullah people from all over the low country but when Daufuskie Island's booming oyster industry came to an end in the 1950’s after the beds were poisoned by pollution in the Savannah River, the population began to dwindle.

When it rains on Sapelo Island, it doesn’t take long for the roads to turn into mud according to Gullah resident Stacey Grovner.

“Back in March we had a torrential downpour over a week long period; we got over 11 inches of rain over one week. The roads were like soup.”

  Sapelo Island, Georgia is a coastal community with rich wildlife, an enviable coastline and towering moss draped trees. It’s no wonder many choose the location for vacations and second homes.

What you may not know is the island is also home to the last intact Gullah Geechee community.

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