The Gullah-Geechee Culture
Located on the Sea Islands of South Carolina and Georgia are communities of people who are the descendants of enslaved Africans. They have a unique culture that is directly linked to West Africa. In South Carolina, this group of African-Americans and the language they speak are referred to as Gullah
(Gul-lah). In Georgia, they are called Geechee (Gee-chee).
Many historians believe that the word "Gullah" comes from Angola, a West African country from which many of the slaves came. Another idea is that "Gullah" is from the Gola, a tribe found near the border of Liberia and Sierra Leone, West Africa. Although the exact origin of the word is not known, most historians agree that the Gullah people and their language have African roots.
Enslaved Africans in the Sea Islands preserved much of the culture of their homeland because they were cut off from the mainlands. Since they didn't have much interaction with people on the mainlands, the enslaved Africans devised their own way of speaking.
The rich culture of the Gullah people is still very prevalent today. Over 250,000 people still speak Gullah. There are several notable people whose heritage can be traced back to the Gullah culture such as First Lady Michelle Obama and Rep. Jim Clyburn. There are several groups that have worked hard to ensure that the Gullah culture is preserved such as the Hallelujah Singers, The Gullah-Geechee Nation, and Aunt Pearlie Sue. Festivals such as The Gullah Festival and The Penn Center Heritage Days are held yearly to celebrate the rich Gullah Heritage.
Gullah people are proud of their ancestors. They are proud of the resilience, the ingenuity, and the strength of their ancestors. The Gullah language and dialect that Gullah descendants speak today are reminders of how powerful their ancestors are. They are reminders that the Gullah can overcome any obstacle thrown in their way.
The Gullah feel it is their duty to honor their ancestors by passing on the rich heritage and culture. They continue to fight for their rights, to build up their communities, and to carry on the long legacy of Gullah pride.