While we have been traveling around the Sea Islands, we’ve prioritized understanding the Gullah culture. Alot of our planned stops were closed (COVID-related I assume, though I’m not sure if it was for safety or because of the economic impact), but that only made me want to work harder to seek out and support the institutions that were striving to sustain and illuminate the Gullah stories, culture, and voices: their West African ancestry, the truth of slavery, freedom (and non-freedom) of Reconstruction, preservation of a culture due to the physical isolation of Sea Islands, and the ongoing diminishing of lands and rights belonging to the Gullah.
This took effort, research, time, energy, and a lot of side-eyes from the RV driver who is never thrilled about taking us on dirt roads with low hanging tree branches. That said, it’s become a critical part of this trip and my emerging approach to the kids’ education. So in hopes that my small efforts can help make it more accessible for another person, I wanted to share my list of stops to consider for other road warriors eager to do more than scratch the surface. So here’s my list, incomplete I have no doubt. If you have more to add, misunderstandings to correct, please comment (and thank you in advance).
All in all, I’m not sure who is walking away more educated, me or the kids. I thought me until I noticed Townes read, in its entirety, one of the Gullah books we bought just while I was cooking dinner. And then Bess noticed a basket and asked if it was a Gullah sweetgrass basket. And then I realize I’m leaving with more questions than I started with, more injustice recognized, more history to reconcile.
- Gullah Geechee Heritage Corridor
- Pin Point Heritage Museum
- Gullah exhibit at Fort Frederica on St. Simons Island
- The Penn Center on St. Helena Island (also a great place to load up on books, art)
- Reconstruction Era National Historical Park
- Historic Mitchelville Freedom Park
- Ravenel Seafood in Ravenel
- Gullah Grub on St. Helena Island
- Sweetgrass baskets by local artisans continuing the long-standing tradition of basket weaving at the Charleston Market
- The books Mama Day, The Gullah: People Blessed by God, Voices of Carolina Slave Children, and Edisto Island: The African American Journey
- The chef BJ Dennis
- Botany Bay Ecotour
- and we had just missed the annual Gullah Celebration in February