Understanding the Gullah Geechee Culture in Brief

Descendants of Central and West Africans with roots to different ethnic and social groups, the Gullah Geechee people form one of the most indigenous cultures of all time. The Gullahs are a distinctive group of Black Americans from South Carolina and Georgia and lives in small farming and fishing communities along the Atlantic coastal plain.

The Gullah Geechee culture on the Sea Islands of Georgia has maintained their ethnic traditions from West Africa since the mid-1700s. Language, agriculture, and spirituality are some of the traditions which have been passed on from the ancestors and are very specifically linked to the West African ethnic groups who were enslaved on island plantations till there were antislavery laws in Georgia.

Today, they inhabit the Sea Islands of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida and the entire area is known as the Gullah Geechee Corridor.

A little bit about the tribe

The Gullah people are particularly known for preserving most of their African linguistic and cultural heritage than any other African-American community in the United States. They speak English-based creole language which contains many African loanwords and has strong influence from the African languages in grammar and sentence structure. So, for those who are interested to know about this thriving culture, the Gullah Heritage Trail Tours are a good option.

Seeing around

To get a glimpse of what the Gullah Geechee culture is all about, let’s see what are he major points of attraction:

• Gullah Neighborhoods: the Sea Islands are the most traditional Gullah neighborhoods which uniquely holds on to the culture of their ancestral villages in West Africa. Hilton Head Island exemplifies the old and traditional village looks with food processing mills, house of extended families of the community, Praise House, essential skill bearers, and a known access to the waterway. They have the Jonesville, Stoney, Spanish Wells, Gardner Marshland, Union Cemetery, Simmons Fishing Camp and more.

• Gullah Museum of Hilton Head Island: The Gullah Heritage Trail Tour takes you to the museum which has preserved their history, culture, language, customs, traditions, stories, songs and structures. There are upcoming restoration plans available and if you are specially interested in their course of development, visit their website.

• Mitchelville: Situated on Hilton Head Island, SC, Mitchelville is a gem within the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor. It forms the roots of the African-American’s contribution to the heritage of freedom in America and today, it tells the story of Mitchelville’s self-governed success with future freedmen towns. It’s interesting to know about their developed laws, how they built their economy and look at the new age life they are living, far from the madding crowd.

People have described the Gullah culture as quaint and the language as unintelligible in the past. A closer look, however, as revealed how they share a complex yet interesting history and language which has strong West African associations that survived slavery. The Gullah Geechee culture today is opened to the world and it is the responsibility of the rest of the communities to be able to keep up the tradition and heritage. Sustainability is not just the responsibility of the tribe but also of the rest of the world to help them live and keep the tradition and heritage alive.