Gullah/Geechee: Slave Descendants’ Culture In Danger

    October 2, 2013
    Amanda Crum

The Gullah/Geechee Nation–a group of people whose ancestors were slaves brought over to sea islands and the Southeast coast–have made it a priority to preserve their heritage over the years. In 2000, they officially became an internationally-recognized nation and elected a queen, Queen Quet (Chieftess and Head-of-State for the Gullah/Geechee Nation). Now, they are battling a hefty tax hike caused by wealthy property buyers, and this extraordinary culture is in real danger of being lost.

Cornelia Bailey says her tax bill went from $800 to $3,000, despite the fact that her home on Sapela Island has no schools, no sanitation services, no law enforcement, and only one paved road. Coastal development, however, is threatening the people who have lived there for centuries.

The group–known as Gullah in the Carolinas and Geechee in Georgia and Florida–make their homes from Jacksonville, North Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida and are actually celebrating Heritage Month in October. A portion of the nation’s website states their goals as a people, which includes preserving their heritage.

“WE will preserve, maintain, and reclaim ALL elements of our homeland which will FOREVER be our base of existence as we carry out these goals. With these goals in mind, Gullah/Geechee people take formal recognition of their nation and their human right to self-determination within the context of their minority governance rights, and thereby, the Gullah/Geechee Nation Wisdom Circle Council of Elders, by its hands, spirit and soul undertakes the task of creating and ratifying the first Constitution of the Gullah/Geechee Nation,” the site says.

Image: Gullah/Geechee Nation