22 May 2013

Gullah Culture

Image Courtesy of Teri Norris
The term "Gullah" or "Geechee" describes a unique group of African Americans descended from enslaved Africans who settled along the Atlantic coast, often on sea islands, between what is now Wilmington, NC to Jacksonville, FL. Gullah is a broad culture embracing the political, social, economic, linguistic, and artistic life of native African-American Sea Islanders.
The Gullah people have made (and continue to make) a lasting impact on our local culture and history.  Therefore, the Beaufort District Collection is home to an extensive Gullah/Geechee historical collection of books, manuscripts, pamphlets, vertical files, videos, and more! As Wilbur Cross noted in his book Gullah Culture in America (Praeger, 2008), Beaufort County Library "has one of the South's largest collections of materials on the Gullah language and the sea island culture." Here are just a few highlights to whet your appetite to learn more about Gullah/Geechee sea island culture:
305.8961 CAM Gullah Cultural Legacies by Emory Campbell
305.8961 CRO Gullah Culture in America by Wilbur Cross
398 JOH Folk Culture on St. Helena Island, South Carolina by Guy B. Johnson
427.9757 TUR Africanisms in the Gullah Dialect by Lorenzo Dow Turner
641.59757 ROB Cooking the Gullah Way: morning, noon, and night by Sallie Ann Robinson
641.59757 SEG My Gullah Kitchen by Eva Segar
975 POL The Gullah People and Their African Heritage by William S. Pollitzer
975.799 GOD God's Gonna Trouble the Water [DVD] by Teresa Bruce

From the comfort of your home, you can read our online articles "Gullah Language" and "Bibliography of Gullah and Sea Island Cultural Materials" by Information Services Coordinator emeritus Dennis Adams and the late Hillary Barnwell.  Another good online resource, particularly for children, is the GullahNet portion of SC ETV’s Know It All website, featuring the talents of Beaufort's own "Aunt Pearlie Sue." You can listen to stories being told in Gullah there.
Kathleen McTeer, Children’s Manager at St. Helena Branch, put together a list of Gullah books for children. Contact me if you'd like a copy of her list in PDF format. 
Don’t forget to view these Beaufort County History Moments segments about Gullah Culture presented by Emory Campbell, former Director of Penn Center and past chairman of the Gullah-Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission, on YouTube: Gullah Language, Gullah Food, and Marsh Tackies.  (Beaufort County History Moments are a joint project of the Beaufort County Planning Department, Beaufort County Library, the County Channel, and Coastal Discovery Museum.)
In addition to a vast array of book materials, we have some collections of newspaper and magazine clippings, culture reports, and other ephemeral materials in vertical files, among which are these:
Low Country Gullah Culture Special Resource Study
Festivals--Native Islander Gullah Celebration
Festivals--Gullah Festival
Gullah Culture, Pilot Study, 2000-2002. Ohio University, Southern Campus
Gullah Culture--Tours

The recently opened St. Helena Branch Library near Penn Center has a reference collection of Gullah/Geechee materials on site in addition to its BDC sponsored and managed local history section. On your way to Hunting Island State Park beach, drop by 6355 Jonathan Francis Senior Road to use those materials.  Reference Manager Belinda Blue (843)255-6487 bblue@bcgov.net can tell you more. 
Several local organizations advocate and celebrate their Gullah roots. Additional information is available through Penn Center, the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition, and the Native Island Business and Community Affairs Association. And, of course, the 27th annual Gullah Festival is being held this weekend on the former campus of Mather School, now the Technical College of the Lowcountry at 921 Ribaut Road. 
Enjoy your holiday weekend! Please remember that all parts of the Beaufort County Library will be closed on Monday, May 27th in observance of Memorial Day. Regular hours resume Tuesday, May 28th.

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