Gullah Heritage History
In the late 1600s, enslaved West Africans were brought to the Georgia and South Carolina sea islands to tend the rice and cotton fields. As the Emanciapation Proclamation brought freedom, many fled to Hilton Head Island and its Union Army outpost to start the first freedman’s village in the United States: Mitchelville. Many of the decendants, known as Gullah, stayed in the area. Throughout the years, the Gullah have protected their heritage through language, food and customs. Get out and explore the Lowcountry’s rich Gullah History:
Queen Chapel AME Church
On Beach City Road, visit Queen Chapel AME Church (established in 1865 as a praise house for slaves) and the historic Mitchelville site where a new Historic Mitchelville Park is planned within the town’s Fish Haul Park location.
Gullah Heritage Trail Tours
Gullah Heritage Trail Tours offers a two-hour narrated drive through 10 Gullah villages. They strive to share the values of the culture with the world through Hilton head activities. Tour Guides all of Gullah Heritage were born and raised on Hilton Head Island before the bridge connection to the mainland. They share their expertise with tour participants to provide the most accurate and engaging cultural experience.
Hilton Head Island Gullah Celebration
Celebrate Gullah culture each February at the month-long Hilton Head Island Gullah Celebration. Enjoy art shows, craft expos, food, film, musicals and more. The Southeast Tourism Society recognizes the Hilton Head Island Gullah Celebration as one of the Top 20 Events in the Southeast. Hilton Head Island Gullah Celebration events incorporate the many facet of the Gullah culture. Visitors have an opportunity to experience the food and music, receive firsthand, historical information and take a journey through the culture via the visual arts.
Coastal Discovery Museum
Coastal Discovery Museum hosts Gullah presentations throughout the year. Learn about the history of the Sweetgrass basket, one of the Lowcountry’s best-known art forms, from a local Gullah basket maker. Then, try your hand at starting a basket of your own using locally found natural materials.
The Penn Center, on St. Helena Island, is the site of one of the nations first schools for freed slaves. The mission of Penn Center is to promote and preserve Penn’s true history and culture. Its commitment to education, community development and social justice is its priority.
November’s Heritage Days event feature storytellers and music. Heritage Days Celebration celebrates Penn School in a three-day cultural event. Enjoy learning the Gullah Geechee history, folk arts, food, music, crafts.
Article courtesy of Hilton Head Island Chamber of Commerce