All I know about the topic is that it is a beautiful group of people in a beautiful area of the world, where they make beautiful Gullah baskets and we should leave them alone. For people who don’t know about the outer barrier islands of South Carolina and Georgia you probably have never heard of either term. Basically, they are a group of African Americans who during slavery lived on these Islands and worked for their owner. They couldn’t escape since they were as far east as they could go.
After the Civil War ended they just retreated back to their Island homes and went on with their lives. They mainly grew rice, scientists have tried to tie them to an African tribe that had the skills to build dams and canals used to irrigate the rice fields.They have been studied so long and by so many people, I feel they should just be left alone.
Our Great Society, as it was once called, has even formed a Gullah Geechee preserve over the last few years. I think that any 4 year old child can look at the map and see that the only purpose is for the rich developer to get richer. An ex-slave preserve in downtown Jacksonville, Fl. Who are they kidding? There is even a plan to extend it to Flagler County, Fl.
I think at this point I’ll stop preaching and discuss the things I love about the people and culture. There is a tale, that makes a goof front porch story, it starts with the IRS coming to Charleston, SC to break up a massive counterfeiting ring. After an extensive and costly investigation, it turns out that the German U-Boats were trading fake $100.00 bills with the Gullah people. These people had kept themselves so isolated that they didn’t know that we were at war. One man told the IRS agent, “well he did have a funny accent.”
My mother grew up in Charleston and we visited friends out on Johns Island. When I could get away I would walk down to the end of the road and into “Gullah Country”. Mother thought this was dangerous, but I found the people friendly and happy to show me how to start a sea grass basket and laugh at the results. These were some of the fondness memories of my youth.
Speaking of the U-Boat Captains accent, It took me a whole summer to learn enough Geechee to get by. All in all, I found Geechee to be a well-structured language that was actually easy to learn. I think the reason it was easy to me is that I speak an English-Scottish-Appalachian dialect that was developed by the first settlers that moved deep into the Appaliichan mountains. That in itself would make a front porch tale but we will save it for later.
Back to the original Geechee-Gullah debate. It depends on who you ask. If you ask a genealogist he made money on his book so it might be slanted. the bottom line is that the people themselves don’t have a clear definition. If you ask one person are you Gullah the say no I’m Geechee the man overthere is Gullah. you could ask another person the same question and get the opposite answer. The only thing that really matters is that they are a happy group of people living in a place they love.
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