Coastal Carolina

Gullah Geechee people, descendants of Central and West Africans slaves, developed a language, culture, and social group that now populate the U.S. sea islands and barrier islands from North Carolina to Florida. And, it extends inland some thirty miles.

Mary Terrell, the wife of Calvin Terrell and mother of Joe in my novel, If You Walk Long Enough, is of Gullah heritage. Her people still live along the Coastal Corridor practicing their unique way of life.

Slaves, originally used to work the indigo and rice plantations along coastal barrier islands, were a mixture of African tribes. As they became the majority population, they developed a blended communication called Gullah creole. This unique language helped them preserve many African practices in cuisine, crafts, religion, and art. It sprang from European slave traders, slave owners, various African ethnic groups with roots in both European and African languages. Today it is the only African creole in the United States. This corridor along the barrier islands recognizes the Gullah heritage as a living culture.

The Gullah developed baskets, fishing nets, boat building, and textile crafts. They crafted distinctive baskets from the sweetgrass, wove the casting fish nets, and created textile art. These handmade items were made from necessity for subsistence living and later progressed into crafted art sold in street markets as a source of extra income. Their textile traditions included sewing strings of cloth into larger patters somewhat like European quilting methods. These cloth strips eventually evolved into distinctly creole art forms with bright colors and unique African patterns.  

Any adventure along the South Carolina coast requires looking into the culture and art of these unique people. If You Walk Long Enough,a novel set in the 1970s that tugs at both ends of the timeline of Black life and culture in America, is a good place to get started.


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