Exploring Gullah-Geechee Culture

When West African people were enslaved and brought to America, a rich heritage of language, music, stories and traditions came with them. For generations, people known as Gullah-Geechee have kept the culture alive, weaving threads into Georgia’s history since before it became a state. This week we’re hearing how some descendants are passing along the Gullah heritage to the next generation.

This project is supported in part by Georgia Humanities through appropriations made by the Georgia General Assembly.

Ways to Connect

The U.S. Department of Justice indicted six Georgia men last week for trafficking guns to New York. The gun runners smuggled the weapons through an underground market known as the “Iron Pipeline.” The pipeline refers to Interstate 95, which connects states like New York with strict gun laws to Southern states like Georgia with less gun restrictions. We learn more about the Iron Pipeline and efforts to dismantle it with journalist Tina Susman and New York City Public Advocate Tish James.

 

Gullah Geechee On Screen

Aug 4, 2016
Julie Dash's 1991 "Daughters of the Dust" features a family in the Gullah community in 1902 South Carolina.

The first Gullah Geechee Heritage Film Festival kicks off this weekend in Horry County, South Carolina. The festival hopes to educate younger audiences and create opportunities to share Gullah narratives on-screen. We talk with Amy Kelly, one of the festival’s organizers, about how the Gullah community has been depicted in film.

A federal judge says key Georgia agencies are not immune from a lawsuit that claims one of the last Gullah-Geechee communities of slave descendants on the Southeast coast is being eroded by discrimination and neglect.

The lawsuit says state and county agencies have pressured black residents and landowners to leave the tiny Hogg Hummock community on Sapelo Island by charging unfair tax rates in return for few services.

Attorneys for the state wanted the lawsuit dismissed, citing the 11th Amendment's broad protections for states being sued in federal court.

Gabrielle Ware / Georgia Public Broadcasting

A federal judge said the state of Georgia is not immune from a lawsuit that claims the state discriminated against a community of slave descendants on Sapelo Island.

The suit was filed last December by several members of one of the last Gullah Geechee communities, Hogg Hummock.

Every year, thousands of birds make their way to Georgia’s coastline during their migration. One vital resting place for these birds is the estuary found at the mouth of the Altamaha River, where they eat and recover en route to their final destination. One species called the red knot heavily depends on Georgia’s coast to help complete its 19,000 mile journey.

The Return Of Purple Ribbon Sugarcane

Mar 14, 2016
Jim Melvin/Clemson University

Purple ribbon sugar cane tastes a little different from its tropical relative. For a while, it thrived on Sapelo Island off the coast of Georgia. Then, disease nearly wiped it out in North America altogether. Now a team of farmers, geneticists, and historians have come together to bring back the Purple Ribbon Sugar Cane. And, in doing so, help save Gullah Geechee culture.

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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