Day 27 – Black History – Gullah Geechee!

Do you remember the children’s television series “Gullah Gullah Island?”

Well, while the island is a fictional place, the culture and people that inspired the show are real. The kids program was based on the traditions of the Gullah Geechee people – direct descendants of enslaved West Africans who created a unique culture and regional dialect that has been passed down for centuries.

Learn More.
The Gullah Geechee live in the low-country region of the U.S. states of Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina, in both the coastal plain called Sea Islands. The Sea Islands are a chain of about 100 sandy islands off east coast.

Enslaved Africans arrived during the 17th century. Living on the coastal islands as a slave was tough, but it actually helped the enslaved maintain a great deal of African culture. Disease and illnesses kept owners at bay; until it was time for “headcount” and to
cash-in on crops.

It was rice that kept the enslaved on those islands for hundreds of years. Many of the Africans that wound up there came from the rice growing region of West Africa, primarily from Sierra Leon. It was both instinct and nature to plant and eat rice.

Their owners took notice and began growing rice themselves, so that the colony was exporting the crop by the end of the 17th century, and had made rice its biggest source of revenue by the middle of the 18th.

LANGUAGE is key.
Most impressive was the enslaved ability to develop a unique creole language, also called Gullah Geechee.
Gullah is the only distinctly, African creole language in the United States which has influenced traditional Southern vocabulary and speech patterns.

In addition to rice, Sea Island plantations produced watermelon, sweet potatoes, red peas, okra, peanuts, sugar cane, butter beans, and greens.

Gullah Geechee speech today, their crafts, and customs bear the strong mark of their ancestors, thanks to a
combination of geography, economics, and history. But above all else, RICE!

My maternal grandfather (Abraham Lawyer), born in South Carolina, is my direct connection to the Gullah Geechee culture.

In 2018, my family & I attended a Gullah Geechee Festival in Beaufort, South Carolina, where we met the elected Queen Quet, chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation. See photo.

*A U. S. Queen was enthroned on July 2, 2000, when the nation within a nation was formally established in the presence of international observers.

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