Your Ultimate Guide to Gullah Heritage

Exploring a new destination during a vacation is always a welcoming thing to do. More so, if the place has something exceptional to offer that differs from your other wishlisted destinations. Gullah, the Sea Islands, is one of those spots that treasure its own heritage, customs and way of living.

Talk about a unique destination to plan for the upcoming Christmas holidays, and we would love to suggest you to go for a tour to the authentic cultural backdrop of Gullah. The Gullah Geechee culture is distinctly famous for surviving through centuries of slavery and more than a century of free lifestyle.

The Sea Islands of Hilton Head practices the West African based system of living portraying the age old beliefs, art forms, music, and other daily customs. The practices and living showcase the unique culture of the enslaved West African who had been residing in the Sea Islands of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida since before the Civil War.

Gullah geechee culture

Who are the Gullah people?

The Gullahs are the natives of African American origin who reside in the Lowcountry region of South Carolina and Georgia, encircling the coastal plain and the Beaufort Sea Islands. They are known for preserving their African linguistic and cultural heritage like no other African-American community in the United States has ever done.

The Gullah people speak an English-based creole linguistic significantly influenced from African languages in grammar and sentence structure. The typical Gullah storytelling, cuisine, artwork and craft, living, folk beliefs, farming and fishing traditions, and much more, all point at strong influenced inherited from West and Central African cultures.

Celebrating the culture at Gullah

The Gullah residents, led by Penn Center and other distinct community groups, are quite sure and persistent in keeping control of their traditional culture and heritage. They won the notion of Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Act in 2006 that offered $10 million over ten years for the preservation of heritage sites of the Sea Islands. This “heritage corridor” extends from southern North Carolina to Northern Florida.

The culture and tradition of Gullah Geeche Corridor have always attracted several historians, anthropologists, folklorists, and linguistics. There are so many academic and historic books published exclusively on Gullah Geechee culture. There are multiple newspapers and magazines that have published documentaries, articles, and book excerpts exclusively on Gullah traditions.

At present, the locals of Gullah organize cultural festivals annually in Lowcountry, and the grand Gullah Celebration is held in February every year on Hilton Head Islands. The other major celebrations of Gullah heritage and culture are portrayed through the Gullah Festival in Beaufort in May, and Heritage Days at Penn Center on St. Helena Island in November.

Language Spoken in Gullah

The language spoken in Gullah resembles closely to the Creole vocab with English-touch with a huge influence of African languages mostly in grammar and sentence structure.

Some examples of Gullah Geechee language as spoken in the 19th century:

Dem chillun binnuh nyam all we rice: Those children were eating all our rice.

‘E tell’um say ‘e haffuh do’um: He told him that he had to do it.

Duh him tell we say dem duh faa’muh: He’s the one who told us that they are farmers.

Enty duh dem shum dey?: Aren’t they the ones who saw him there?

Gullah geechee culture


Future of Gullah heritage

Gullah culture is all about involving the local youth to promote the values of the place vividly in the days ahead. The living, the traditions and the vocab – all have been passed down from family to family, generation to generation with the sole aim to highlight the Gullah Geechee culture to the world.

The Gullah Geechee corridor emphasises youth to promote the tradition of the place. The Corridor was established and authorized by Congress in the National Heritage Areas Act of 2006, and since then the place has got its recognition nationally.

In the days to come, there are proposals of several other constructions to highlight the culture and unique tradition of the Corridor.

Want to visit Gullah Geechee Corridor?

There are dedicated groups of locals who take the responsibility to introduce their rich culture to the outer world. As a tourist, you can visit the place and engage in the unique way of living in Gullah.

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