Lunin de Chillun!-The Gullah/Geechee Story in Children’s and Youth Books

by Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation

Many people around the world and within the Gullah/Geechee Nation itself have only become aware of the various aspects of history that have been pages written through the endurance and overcoming of Gullah/Geechees once they are adults.  There have been very few children’s authors that have focused on the stories of Gullah/Geechees and there are only a few native Gullah/Geechees that are also children’s book authors.  Many people have read Ron Daise’s “De Gullah Storybook” which is an alphabetic journey. However, many are not aware of the multicultural work of author, Shiela Martina who is a librarian in and native Gullah/Geechee of Walterboro, SC or Patricia Bee of Beaufort, SC who wrote an outstanding book of encouragement and overcoming for children entitled “Tryumsee’s Wings.”

While the writings above are definitely works that families should include in their libraries at home and read even to the babies in the womb, there are books that should be presented at a Gullah/Geechee naming ceremony and/or christening as gifts for not just the baby, but the entire family.   These are works that draw on the actual history of the Gullah/Geechee people.   Three of the favorites of the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition’s Alkebulan Archive are “Fort Mose and the Story of the Man Who Built the First Free Black Settlement in Colonial America” by Glennette Tilley Turner.

This outstanding new book that contains archival documents and images connects the story of Gullah/Geechee freedom seekers and fighters from Carolina to Florida.   This story has long since been hidden from the public and can now be revealed to the youth and the entire family from within these pages.

Gullah/Geechees took various means of self-emancipation and self-determination from the time of the beginnings of the TransAtlantic Slave Trade up to this moment in the human rights era.   The spirit of the Igbos that are a part of the Gullah/Geechee ancestry is often spoken of in this regard and many continue to journey to St. Simon’s Island seeking to stand at Igbo Landing which has been fenced off from the public.  A journey can be taken to this place and space where you will learn how a woman led this stand against enslavement via the pages of Ebony Sea.

This book by Irene Smalls has outstanding illustrations and is well written.

Another excellent book that takes you through the journey that brought Gullah/Geechees to the Carolina coast and then narrows in to the focus of the living story of the people of St. Helena Island and Beaufort County, SC bears the English translation of a Gullah/Geechee proverb, “The Water Brought Us” i.e. “De Wata Bring We an e Gwine Tek We Bak.”

This book by Muriel Miller Branch contains numerous photographs of elders from historic St. Helena Island and stories from their hearts detailing their culture and lifestyles.  So, it will bring back many memories to those that grew up along the coast of the Gullah/Geechee Nation.

Our ancestors had their right to read taken by the 1740 Slave Code, we need to insure that those that died because they could read and write and that taught others even under the cover of night, did not die in vain.  We must return to sitting with the family and reading and sharing once again.   So, pick up these books and turn the pages.  Let everyone have an opportunity to read from a page and talk about it within the family.  Disya wey hunnuh kin lun de chillun bout who webe! Plenee ting dey ya wha hunnuh ain be dun yeddi.  E time fa hunnuh shum an fa hunnuh share den de chillun gwine kno fa tru whey e cum frum an wha fa do!

1 Comment

  1. Reblogged this on Beaufort County Historical Resources Consortium and commented:

    If you are interested in books on Gullah/Geechee history and culture that are appropriate for children and youth, please read and pass on this article!

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