Though most scholars are not in agreement as to the origins of Gullah/Geechee, it is more or less established that the Geechee and Gullah community traces its roots to West & Central Africa and originally worked on the plantations in South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina and Florida. They have since settled in Lowcountry, a 200-mile stretch of coastal South Carolina and Georgia. While Gullahs are more within South Carolina, Geechees are folks who chose coastal Georgia stretching into parts of Florida. Regardless of location, the community as a whole is more commonly referred to as Geechee.
The Lowcountry islands were only accessible by boat until the 1950s when the first connecting bridges were built. Separated from the mainland by creeks, rivers, and marshes, the Geechees were naturally insulated from outsiders allowing the community to flourish. As a result, the Community was able to build a strong sense of family, develop a unique creole dialect, and establish distinct cultural patterns, that included more of the African tradition than any other African-American population in the United States.
Today, a variety of factors are threatening the long-term preservation of the Gullah/Geechee culture. Population shifts towards the coast, accelerated economic activity, and encroaching real estate development have placed their lifestyle and identity in jeopardy. A large factor has been the development of nearby Hilton Head Island. The growing resort industry has also reduced the wildlife population, effectively impeding the hunting and fishing potential of the community. Due to their “living off the land,” the shrinking natural resources have caused a mass migration of this community from the Lowcountry region into other parts of the US.
On the other hand, this migration, has made significant contributions to not only the lives of southerners, but to all Americans. Elements of the Gullah/Geechee culture, eating habits, cooking styles, music, and language can be prevalently found on a national scale, far away from their native Lowcountry region.
The famous Gullah/Geechee cuisine is characterized by slow, one-pot cooking of what is regionally available and in season. An authentic Gullah/Geechee dinner is one of the highlights of Sojourn’s New 2018 Lowcountry Trip from Savannah, GA to Charleston, SC. The appropriately named “Lowcountry Boil” is a Gullah/Geechee staple and is typically comprised of fresh crab, shrimp, vegetables and seasonings, amongst other delicious ingredients.
In the pursuit of learning more on this community, the southern culture and the distinct historical corridors of this region, we travel to Savannah, GA, Beaufort, SC, and Charleston, SC, on our new Savannah, GA to Charleston, SC, Bike Tour with departures in March & October of 2018.