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Preservation of Gullah-Geechee culture

The Gullah-Geechee Heritage Commission scheduled a public forum Thursday evening to discuss the preservation of our area’s Gullah-Geechee culture. The culture originated from slaves who were brought to our coast from West Africa. "There are probably pockets of preservation that various different groups are individuals may be preserving as part of their daily lives and that's what they are trying to discover with this meeting tonight,” said Cape Fear Museum Director Ruth Hass.

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I was not aware that there was any genuine Gullah culture outside of the Lowlands of SC stretching from the Geechee River up to north of Charleston. Beaufort County, being my ancesteral home, I grew up with the stories of the islands and the culture there. Mother always told me was the people of the islands called outsiders "geechee" as a gentle slight because outsiders lived south of the Geechee River. Is history being re-written or have I only been exposed to part of it? Unless the article is referencing some sort of museum road show or the public TV version "Gullah Island". The Gullah I know have a rich cultural heritage preserved by the isolation of the islands of Lowland SC that is being diminished. Between resort/retirement development (Hilton Head, Dataw, etc.) and the movement of the young off the islands the culture is being relegated to museums, books and paintings. Oh, and Gullah Grub in Frogmore.


First time I went to Hilton Head was in 1975 it was very rural. I was a kid but I remember the drive in with lots of African-American folks still living in their old houses waving to us as we drove by. No big hotels except at the very end where we stayed..... Skip forward to 2000. The taxes are so sky high for these folks that lived there for many generations that they have mostly all gone. The few I saw crammed onto lots that apparently one family member still owned. Mitchelville was a town built during the American Civil War for escaped slaves, located on what is now Hilton Head Island. It contained about 1,500 residents by 1865. In 1890 there were approximately 3,000 African-Americans living on Hilton Head Island, by 1930 there were only about 300 living on the island. The Gullah region once extended north to the Cape Fear area on the coast of North Carolina and south to the vicinity of Jacksonville Fla. "In 2006 the Congress passed the "Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Act" that provides $10 million over ten years for the preservation and interpretation of historic sites relating to Gullah culture. The "heritage corridor" will extend from southern North Carolina to northern Florida. The project will be administered by the US National Park Service with strong input from the Gullah community."

Re: Gullah

Rodgers: Though you're correct about the origins of the Gullah and Geechee cultures, it is thought that waves of populations may have migrated north from the SC Lowcountry, possibly as far north as New Hanover County. If that is the case (and that is, in part what the commission that met last night is investigating) there may well be people with ancestral Gullah-Geechee ties in the Lower Cape Fear Region. No museum road show :). We'll be interested in the commissions findings, though, as it will provide additional insight into the history and cultures of our region.