News and background stories on maroon communities in the Americas.
Source: Augusta Chronicle
On the sea islands of the Southeast where the descendants of enslaved people have dwelled for generations, a plan is nearly complete to help preserve their unique Geechee and Gullah culture from rapid development and modern culture.
The management plan for the Gullah-Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor reaching through four states from southeastern North Carolina down past St. Augustine, Fla., is expected to go out for public comment next month. By summer’s end, it’s expected to be approved by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.
“We’re trying to reach out to all of the community and that basically means all Americans because it’s an American story,” said Ralph Johnson, a member of the corridor commission and professor at Florida Atlantic University.
Known as Gullah in the Carolinas and Geechee in Florida and Georgia, the enslaved people and their descendants preserved a coastal culture based on farming and fishing with, among other things, their own creole language, history, cooking and crafts such as weaving sweetgrass baskets.
But the 21st century is intruding. From the sprawling suburbs of Jacksonville north to the condominiums of Hilton Head Island and the dozens of golf courses and high-rise hotels dotting the landscape in Myrtle Beach, breakneck development threatens the culture.
Its precarious position was illustrated one recent day in the Charleston suburb of Mount Pleasant, where a sweetgrass basket weaver practiced her art in a wooden stand a few feet off U.S. 17, as heavy trucks and SUVs sped by and white barrels in a construction zone.
The management plan would clear the way for some federal money to be used to educate people about the culture, put signs at locations of importance and create a complete inventory of Gullah and Geechee sites.
It focuses on education, documentation and preservation and developing economic opportunities, said Michael Allen, the Gullah-Geechee coordinator for the National Park Service.
“This is the largest multi-state heritage corridor and the only one of the 49 in the nation that deals with African-American history and culture,” he said. (…continued)
Read full report here: August Chronicle
(Thanks to Derek Hankerson and Phil “Pompey” Fixico for alerting us to this news)
What is the Gullah/Geechee Corridor?
Designated by Congress in 2006, the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor extends from Wilmington, N.C. in the north to Jacksonville, Fl. in the south. It is home to one of America’s most unique cultures, a tradition first shaped by captive Africans brought to the southern United States from West Africa and continued in later generations by their descendents.
According to Clyburn’s website, the Heritage Corridor was created to:
1. Recognize the important contributions made to American culture and history by Africans and African Americans known as Gullah/Geechee who settled in the coastal counties of Florida (Duval and Nassau), Georgia (Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Glynn, Liberty and McIntosh), North Carolina (Brunswick and New Hanover) and South Carolina (Beaufort, Charleston, Colleton, Georgetown, Horry, Jasper and parts of Berkeley and Dorchester);
2. Assist Federal, State and local governments, grassroots organizations and public and private entities in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina in interpreting the story of the Gullah/Geechee culture and preserving Gullah/Geechee folklore, arts, crafts and music; and
3. Assist in identifying and preserving sites, historical data, artifacts, and objects associated with the Gullah/Geechee culture for the benefit and education of the public.