It has often been said that those hapless occupants of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century slave ships carried nothing with them on their involuntary journeys from their native West Africa to the New World. This is not true. Though they were stripped of everything but their names, Africans newly impressed into slavery carried fragmented memories of their culture – music, folklore, social structure, and religion – to the mines and plantations of the Americas. On the plantations of the American South, the slaves multiplied and passed their African roots to their descendants in a rich and lasting oral tradition, a tradition that survives to this day. by Roger Pinckney
Sandlapper Publishing Co., Inc., 2003; Paperback; 148 pages; $19.95
Gullah Branches, West African Roots is an unabashed celebration of a vibrant culture. Through the eyes of Ron Daise, we experience the daily life of Gullah people past and present…. Ron has exposed the beauty of a once closeted culture and compelled his audience with a sense of urgency to preserve it….It is a story of faith, of courage, and of character….It is a powerful story that turns what was once the embarrassment of having enslaved ancestors to one that demonstrates the value of their ancestors’ talents and treasures. Ron has thoughtfully and thoroughly documented the journey of the Gullah culture and instilled pride in all those of Gullah/Geechee heritage. – from the Foreword, by James E. Clyburn, U.S. Congessman
Sandlapper Publishing, 2007; Paperback; 198 pages; $29.95
The Gullah language existed as an isolated and largely ignored linguistic phenomenon until the publication of Lorenzo Dow Turner’s landmark volume Africanisms in the Gullah Dialect. In his classic treatise, Turner, the first professionally trained African American linguist, focused on a people whose language had long been misunderstood, lifted a shroud that had obscured the true history of Gullah, and demonstrated that it drew important linguistic features directly from the languages of West Africa. Initially published in 1949, this groundbreaking work of Afrocentric scholarship opened American minds to a little-known culture while initiating a means for the Gullah people to reclaim and value their past.
Lorenzo Dow Turner (1895-1972) was a pioneer in the study of African contributions to global culture. He was the first full-time African American professor at Roosevelt College in Chicago, held a Fulbright lectureship to Nigeria, conducted linguistic fieldwork in African countries, and helped to establish Peace Corps programs in Africa.
With a new introduction by Katherine Wyly Mille and Michael B. Montgomery.
University of South Carolina Press, 2002; Paperback; 321 pages; $21.95
This translation of the New Testament into Gullah was more than 25 years in the making. While the whole Gullah New Testament was being translated, the Gospel of Luke was published by the American Bible society in 1994, entitled De Good Nyews Bout Jedus Christ Wa Luke Write. Then in 2003, the Gospel of John was published by Wycliff Bible Translators, entitled De Good Nyews Bout Jedus Christ Wa John Write. This presenation of the Gullah New Testament translation has the King James (Authorized) version in the margin for reference, alongside the Gullah text.
The American Bible Society, 2005; 900 pages; $29.95
In the 1930’s, the Federal Writers’ Project undertook a massive effort at gathering the oral testimony of former slaves. Those ex-slaves were in their declining years by the time of the Great Depression, but Elizabeth Sparks, Elige Davison and others like them nonetheless provided a priceless record of life under the yoke, where slaves lived, how they were treated, what they ate, how they worked, how they adjusted to freedom.
Here, Belinda Hurmence presents the interviews of 21 former Virginia slaves. This is a companion volume to Hurmence’s popular collections of North Carolina and South Carolina slave narratives, My Folks Don’t Want Me to Talk About Slavery and Before Freedom, When I Just Can Remember.
John F. Blair, Publisher, 1994; Paperback; 103 pages;
Virginia Geraty says: “One of my most pleasant and significant memories is that of my grandmother’s kitchen during the 1920 Christmas holiday at her home on Yonges Island, South Carolina. It was there I first heard Gullah, an experience that marked the beginning of a love affair with this language – an immediate infatuation, which was to intensify through the years.
My purpose in preparing this work is twofold. I have received numerous requests for information about the Gullah language. And while this book is my answer to these requests, my primary purpose in all my work with Gullah is to increase public awareness of the language and to generate interest in the preservation of this significant linguistic contribution of the African-American people to our American heritage.” Because of Mrs. Geraty’s continuing work in preserving the language, she was awarded in 1995 the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters by the College of Charleston.
Sandlapper Publishing co., Inc., 1997; Paperback; 109 pages; $19.95
Row Upon Row – Sea Grass Baskets of the South Carolina Lowcountry
From its roots in Africa through its development on the rice plantations to its current renaissance as an art form sought after by collectors and tourists, sweetgrass basket weaving has survived for more than three hundred years. A new generation of Americans has become aware that these objects are an important and visible link in our cultural ties to an African past.
University of South Carolina Press, 1994; 72 pages; 8 1/2″ x 11″; $15.00
The ancient African art of sweetgrass basket making has bee practiced for more than 300 years in the Christ Church Parish of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. Seen on the roadways of Charleston County and in museums and galleries worldwide, these unique handmade baskets are crafted from sweetgrass, bullrush, pine needles and palm leaves. Traditionally, artisans use a piece of the rib bone of a cow and a pair of scissors as their only tools for construction. When English settlers founded Christ Church Parish in the late 1600’s, they saw a place rich in natural beauty and ideal for harvesting rice, cotton and indigo. Skilled agricultural laborers were needed and consequently, South Carolina became the top importer of enslaved West Africans. Finding a landscape similar to their homeland, these who came kept many of their traditional practices. Today, the richness of the West African presence can be seen in Charleston’s architecture, basketry and ironworks. by Joyce V. Coakley
Arcadia Publishing, 2005; 128 pages; 6 1/2″ x 9 1/2″; $21.99
On a memorable day in 1989, “a group of 14 African Americans gathered in Savannah, Georgia, for a trip that wold be more meaningful than any other in their lives,” writes Wilbur Cross. “They were going backward in time to West Africa, to seek their ancestral origins.” Gullah Culture in America explores the voyages of 20th and 21st-century Gullahs reconnecting with their roots in West Africa. It presents the culture of the Gullahs – food, music, folklore, language, art, medicine, religion – and shows readers the extraordinary history of a people straddling two continents.
John F. Blair, Publishers, 2008; Paperback; 6″ x 9″; 300 pages; $16.95