Celebrating Gullah History
March 2021 Issue
Reel Corner by Donne Paine
Celebrating Gullah History
If you missed the month-long Gullah Celebration, hosted by Native Island Business and Community Affairs Association, the celebration showcased the rich cultural heritage of the Gullah people and their history in the Lowcountry. It included an art exhibition, “Taste of Gullah” and Gullah gospel music.
Gullah refers not only to a language, but also to a culture and a still vibrant community bolstered by the resiliency of courage and the heritage of its forefathers. Brought to America as enslaved people, the Gullah remain one of the most culturally distinctive African American populations in the United States. From Reconstruction to the Depression, the Gullah lived in isolated coastal settlements on the Sea Islands along the Southeastern US, including Hilton Head Island and St. Helena. During this time, they established a rich culture with authentic West African components, including a distinctive language, history, economic system, and artistic traditions. Their artistry in music, basketry, quilt making, folklore, cuisine, the healing arts and film all showcase the strong familial and cultural ties that developed into the extraordinary Gullah society. Films you may enjoy that highlight the Gullah Culture:
Daughters of the Dust
Directed by Julie Dash; Cora Lee Day, Alva Rogers, Barbarao
Set in 1902, an African-American family struggles with a with a painful past and an uncertain future, as some members prepare to leave their sea island homes to start new lives on the mainland.
Family Across The Sea
Directed by Tim Carrier
In this documentary a delegation of the Gullah-Geechee descendants from Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas visits Sierra Leone to discover the remarkable connections between the Gullah people of South Carolina and the people of Sierra Leone.
The Language You Cry In
Directors Alvaro Toepke and Angel Serrano.
Vertamae Grosvenor (narrator)This moving documentary shows how a song passed down through the generations connects one Georgia Gullah family to a Mende village in West Africa.
Stay in De Boat
Directors Michael Broderick, Morgan Furr, Jack Neligan, and Zane Tharp.
South Carolina Gullahs tell their story in this documentary that does not feature a narrator or any other interpretation.
The Will to Survive: The Story of the Gullah Geechee Nation
A documentary in Walmart’s “Voices of Color” series, filmed mostly on Sapelo Island, Georgia and St. Helena Island, South Carolina.
Directed by Martin Ritt; Jon Voight, Madge Sinclair, Hume Cronyn, Paul Winfield and Antonio Fargas.
Based on writer Pat Conroy’s memoir, "The Water is Wide", Conrack is the story of Conroy’s real-life experiences as a school teacher to Gullah children on remote Daufuskie Island, South Carolina, in 1969. The film was shot on St. Simons Island and in Brunswick, Georgia, and includes many local people.
God’s Gonna Trouble the Water
The Gullah culture of St. Helena Island and surrounding South Carolina Sea Islands, featuring the Hallelujah Singers.
Tales of the Unknown South
Directed by Randy Brinson, Jim Eddins and Jim McMahan
Trilogy of films about race and culture in the Deep South from the end of World War I to the Civil Rights protests of the 1960s. All three stories deal with fear and isolation, and the role of faith in the lives of those who venture alone into what is unknown around them.
References: www.hiltonheadisland.org/gullah | www.imbd.com