February 28, 2021-
One of my favourite areas of the South is coastal Georgia and South Carolina-particularly the Sea Islands. This is largely due to the presence, both physically and spiritually of the Gullah-the descendants of enslaved people, who largely kept their ancestral African culture and language.
While much of the Sea Islands region has been taken over by large hospitality and golfing interests, the flavour of the area has largely been impacted by Gullah cultural features. The Low Country Boil, a popular meal of seafood, greens and fresh corn, is a gift of the enslaved. So, too, are the products brought from Africa, by those carried here against their will. Africans brought rice, okra, coffee, cotton, indigo, and cassava to the Americas, as well as net fishing and even the use of poison to trap large numbers of fish. This last has, thankfully, been shown to be of no benefit to human health-and was abandoned in the Southeast, a long time ago.
The enslaved people showed their captors the techniques of rice, cotton and coffee cultivation. Africans, then as now, knew nothing other than sharing-and at least initially, showing love even in the face of harshness and brutality. Besides, they needed elements of their homeland, in order to maintain sanity, and a sense of purpose. A good source for understanding the complexity of Gullah culture and language is William S. Pollitzer’s “The Gullah People and Their African Heritage”, University of Georgia Press, Athens (GA), 1999, which I have just finished reading. Dr. Pollitzer grew up in the Sea Islands region and was immersed in Gullah culture.
Here is a more audiovisual description of Gullah life, from a story teller on Edisto Island: Theresa Jenkins Hilliard. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0DGijYiGQU