In the late 1600’s, Georgia and South Carolina sea islands to tended the rice and cotton fields using enslaved West Africans.
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 on the Island. Throughout the years, the Gullah have protected their heritage through language, food and customs. Get out and explore the Lowcountry’s rich Gullah History:
- 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 offers a two-hour narated drive through 10 Gullah villages on Hilton Head Island.
- Each February enjoy the month-long Hilton Head Island Gullah Celebration. Enjoy art shows, craft expos, food, film, musicals and more.
- The Coastal Discovery Museum hosts Gullah presentations throughout the year.
- The Penn Center, on St. Helena Island, is the site of one of the nations first schools for freed slaves. November’s Heritage Days event feature storytellers and music.
• SWEETGRASS SOUVENIRS: The intricate art of making sweetgrass baskets is one of the most treasured Gullah history and traditions in the Lowcountry. The craft spans generations with more than 300 years of the craft. Weavers use a spoon handle to stitch together the sweetgrass to form the basket. Buy a basket at roadside stands and craft markets in the area. You can event make one yourself at the Coastal Discovery Museum, which hosts basket-making classes through-out the year.
Article courtesy of Hilton Head Island Chamber of Commerce!