Black History Lessons of a Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Scholar

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
• Romans 12:2

“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:”
• Proverbs 23:7 King James Version (KJV)

Carter_G_Woodson_portrait“If you can control a man’s thinking, you don’t have to worry about his actions. If you can determine what a man thinks you do not have to worry about what he will do. If you can make a man believe that he is inferior, you don’t have to compel him to seek an inferior status, he will do so without being told and if you can make a man believe that he is justly an outcast, you don’t have to order him to the back door, he will go to the back door on his own and if there is no back door, the very nature of the man will demand that you build one.”
Dr. Carter G. Woodson

As I grew up in my Gullah/Geechee household and attended school on St. Helena Island, SC in the Gullah/Geechee Nation, I heard the quotes above.  I am sure that at the time that I first heard and then read them, I did not have the understanding that I have now lived to obtain.  I have seen how people that have no knowledge of their right to stand for their rights will sit down and watch others trample over them and simply say, “See.  That’s why I didn’t do anything.”  In effect, they did do something, they contributed to the problem by not actively working against it.

I have never been a person that could sit idly by and see injustices done and do nothing but watch.  I am sure that is because I was born into a time when people were fighting!  They were standing!  They were tired of being tired!  I was from a family that fought for the rights of not just themselves individually, but participated in the meetings and the boycotts while assisting in financially supporting one another.  By being Gullah/Geechee land owners, they knew what it took to have to fight to hold on to what you had and they were not going to allow their legacy to be lost because someone else “thought” that they shouldn’t have it. It was never about what someone else thought!  What are you thinking?

Yes, the key question is “What are you thinking?”  “Who taught you your thoughts?”

I was that student that challenged the notion of teachers “teaching you how to think.” I finally got the word for that when I embarked upon my college career and started “programming.”  I learned how people program machines and program other people.   So, this made me even more interested in understanding why some people “think” differently even within the same family and community.  It is all about who is controlling your mind.   Now, I value the scriptures that inform us of the power of the mind and I continuously control my own mind and unplug from the societal programming of which Dr. Carter G. Woodson so aptly taught.

Because I have been reading books since I was three years old and my books of choice were those with images of people that resembled myself (which there were often very few of in the libraries), I have never embraced a notion of Black people being inferior to anyone.  The stories of the lives of Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Nat Turner, and Dr. Carter G. Woodson were never those that read as the lives of inferior people to me.   They still do not.

I find myself often in the Gullah/Geechee Alkebulan Archive thumbing through the pages Queen Quet at De Gullah/Geechee Alkebulan Archiveof their life stories and those of many others such as William Still, Nzingha, the Queen of Sheba, and the Gullah/Geechee elders whose stories we have recorded.  I am thankful for the inspiration on the pages and the inspiration I received because someone like Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the founder of Black History Month, took the time to document the journey of people of African descent and to share the accomplishments with the world while also documenting the major problem in the Black community-the thought process.   I have heard that acknowledgement of the problem or the disease is the first step in the healing process.  So, I read, I study, I teach, and I pray that there will be a transformation and renewal of the minds especially in the Gullah/Geechee community and that we will go beyond February to celebrate our journey, commemorate and support our people.  As much as a back door might get you on the porch, the front door is open and it has been for quite some time.

by Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation (

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