The Gullah people are African Americans that reside in the low country region of Georgia. They live in small fishing and agricultural neighborhoods along the Atlantic coastal plain and on the chain of Sea Islands equivalent to the coast.
A large percentage of the Gullah people originated from the regions demarcated for rice cultivation in West Africa. In other words, they are descendants of Africans who were enslaved on the rice, Indigo and Sea Island cotton plantations of the lower Atlantic Coast.
The peculiarities of their enslavement on the remote island and coastal plantations gave birth to a culture entrenched in deep African roots; which is quite visible in their food, language, music, arts and crafts and other customs.
The official language for the Gullah people is Gullah Geechee language which is widely spoken across the coastal areas of North and South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. It started as basic form of communiqué among a diverse population of people who spoke different languages. They included African tribal groups, slave vendors and even European slave merchants.
The vocabulary of the language is rooted in both the African and European languages; making it the only distinct African creole language in America. Also, the creole language of the Gullah people is quite similar to the Sierra Leone’s Krio.
In terms of arts and culture, the slavery conditions influenced these societal elements and traditions greatly. For example, the Gullah ancestors engaged mainly in basket weaving, textile arts and making of casting nets for the sole purpose of survival.
Even the style of music revolved around the conditions of slavery that was inflicted on them. Such influences can be various musical genres such as hip hop, gospel, rhythm and blues, ragtime, soul and jazz music.
When it comes to food matters, the Gullah people consume vegetables, seafood, fruits, game. Others include foods imported from Africa and Europe in the time of the slave trade. They include okra, peas, yam, peanuts, sorghum, and watermelon amongst others. They also eat food from the Native Americans such as corn, tomatoes, squash and berries.
It is also interesting to note that rice is the staple crop taken by the Gullah people. African cooking techniques and seasonings are also employed.
Facts About The Gullah people
- Several celebrities such as; Michelle Obama, Joe Frazier, Chris Rock, Julie Dash, Jim Brown, Septima Poinsette Clark; (mother of the civil rights movement) and Gullah Jack all have their roots in Gullah.
The land mass of this area, included Southern Atlantic Coastal Plain and the 79 Barrier Islands that hug the coast; and encompass approximately 12,818 square miles, an area larger than the states of Maryland and Delaware combined.
Sweet grass Basket making which utilizes grasses found naturally along the coast, is one of the the many art forms linked to the Gullah Geechee culture.
- Estimates about the current number of Gullah/Geechee people vary and exact figures are hard to verify. Gullah/Geechee leaders say that an approximately one million people belong to the nation, while other reports put the number closer to 250,000.
Gullah/Geechee people have preserved the cultural heritage of their ancestors more than any other black Americans in the United States.
- To this day, the Gullah/Geechee people are trying to hold steadfastly to the way of life of their African ancestors, passing on their traditions from one generation to the next.
Slavery remains an open scar in the history of mankind and sadly the present too. But, we will continue to fight it and bury it forever. Say No to SLAVERY.