A Message from Congress

We Must Preserve and Protect Gullah Geechee Culture

By Congressman
James E. Clyburn

HomeColumn1Image One of my proudest achievements in the Congress was authoring the legislation that established the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor and created a commission to help federal, state, and local authorities manage the Corridor and its assets. It took more than seven years of work to get the bill passed into law, but today the commission is working hard on efforts to preserve and promote the nearly 400-year history of Gullah Geechee culture that is the core purpose of my initiative. The sites, sounds and tastes of Gullah Geechee culture have been slowly vanishing along the coasts of North and South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

Stories and traditions of this fusion of African and European cultures brought long ago to these shores have been slipping away along with the marsh and sand that are disappearing because of the encroachment of developments and the pressures to assimilate into the "modern" world.

Small enclaves of “Gullah,” in the Carolinas, and "Geechee," in Georgia and Florida, remain. There you find houses trimmed in indigo, which were -- and may still be -- believed toward off evil spirits. There you hear talk of life before the"cumyas,"those who are recent arrivals to the area and the problems brought by the "benyas,"those whose roots can be traced back to plantation life. There you listen to traditional spirituals like "Kumbaya" (come by here) that most Christians today continue to sing, although often in more familiar dialect. There you watch nimble hands weave gorgeous sweet grass baskets with a skill that has been handed down for generations. There you can enjoy the aroma and tastes of "hoppin' john," sweet potato pie, or benne wafers, all Gullah/Geechee specialties that have found their way into our modern culture.

Read More From: Congress James E. Clyburn