De Gullah/Geechee Foundation of America

Many people only look to the Gullah/Geechee Nation to hear storytelling and music or to seek out a great plate of food.  However, when they arrive on the soil of the Sea Islands and Lowcountry between Jacksonville, NC and Jacksonville, FL they are now walking on the foundation of America that is held together by the blood, sweat, and tears of the Africans from Angola, Ivory Coast, Burkina-Faso, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Senegal, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Togo, Benin, Gabon, Congo, and Zaire as well as some from Madagascar and Mozambique.  These Africans from numerous ethnic groups became called “slaves” by the enslavers, but they retained their ethnic names amongst themselves.  Over time, all of their DNA and traditions began to flow together like the waters of the Sea Islands and this flowed into the amalgamation of their cultural expressions.  The culture that they created is now called “Gullah/Geechee.”

The knowledge base of millions of Africans was exploited in order to have lands cleared, buildings designed and built-the big houses and enslavement cabins as well as the forts along the shores of the Gullah/Geechee Nation‘s coast to name a few-and to have fields planted and harvested so that the crops became “cash” as they were sold on the international market.  The very ships that the Africans that were considered to be “cargo” where transported on as well as those that returned with the crops to other lands were insured by those in what are now the northern states including the New York and New England.  TransAtlantic Slave Trade was the economic engine that caused the colonies to continue to be built up and to be places to which others continued to come to by choice as well as by force.

The fact that Africans literally built up this cultural landscape by hand and that they were the ones that managed the areas called “plantations” and took care of the people enslaved therein as well as taking care of the enslavers, is not the story conveyed as people continue to journey to the plantations of the coast and spend millions of dollars per year to simply see the grounds and to hear the stories of what life was like.  However, the stories at these sites and those of the missionary schools and schools formed to be places in which the children that enslavers had with African women are inaccurately told in order to make them palatable and to remove the true “value” of the Africans from the storylines stated by docents and by plantation “historians,” curators, re-enactors, and storytellers.

Due to a consistent repetition of inaccuracy, many people think that all Gullah/Geechees came from Sierra Leone when only a small percentage of Gullah/Geechee ancestors came from that one country.  It is more accurate to state that a large number of Gullah/Geechee ancestors came from the Windward Coast/Rice Coast region.  Many Gullah/Geechees also have native American or indigenous American ancestry as well.

While millions of people remain unaware of the existence of Gullah/Geechee people and the Gullah/Geechee Nation, there are those that have heard these terms, but are still unclear on what they mean and visits to the aforementioned locations do not often have them depart with clarity in regard to it.  Many that have heard these terms, but are unaware of the origins of the terms “Gullah” and “Geechee” are also still concerned about whether or not to call anyone “Geechee” since for decades many people in the African American community used “Geechee” as a derogatory form against many people of African descent from the south (all of whom are were not from the coastal area that is now the Gullah/Geechee Nation.  They were simply “southern Blacks.”) that did not speak in the same manner that they did.  This was especially encountered when Gullah/Geechees ventured up north as part of and after the Great Migration.

Interestingly enough, many Gullah/Geechee words are part of American English and people do not give any credit to Africans for their contribution to English while they try to demote the Gullah language to a dialect of English when in fact it is a language unto itself which Geechee emerged from as fluent Gullah speakers tried to communicate with those that only spoke English.  To learn more about the journey that English has taken and some of the Gullah contributions to it, watch “The Adventure of English:”

“Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Awareness Month” provides us an opportunity to dispel many of the myths that continue to harm native Gullah/Geechees.  To that end, we encourage you to tune into these videos and to share them with others that are seeking to learn de trut bout who webe doung ya:

• Meaning of the Gullah/Geechee Nation Flag:

 

• Who de Gullah/Geechee Be:

• Origins of Gullah and Geechee:

Ef hunnuh wan yeddi mo bout who webe, gwine yonda fa shum pun Gullah/Geechee TV (GGTV) www.gullahgeechee.tv.

www.gullahgeecheenation.com

2 Comments

  1. Jermaine

    Hello. I have a huge presence of the culture in both of my families. I actually live in the SC low country in St. Stephen and wanted to know more about my families past. The last names include Gourdine, Middleton, Simmons, and Green/e. Where can I look up information without having to go on Ancestry.com. Thank you.

    • Peace!

      Actually, we encourage people to come to the area and speak to the elders in the family first. So, begin there and then start viewing documents related to land deeds to trace backward from the oldest people that those elders remember. Next go to the SC Department of Archives and History in Columbia, SC and look up birth and death records. You can then begin to assembly the family story.

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