Tag Archives: African-American Culture of Coastal Georgia

Sam Ripley Farm, 1926, Liberty County

Sam Ripley, who was born to Harry Ripley around 1900, built this house on a section of his father’s land in 1926. He used salvaged wood and lumber discarded from area sawmills. For many years he worked at the Whitland Saw Mill (no longer extant) so some of the lumber likely came from there. As was typical of African-Americans in Liberty County at the time, Ripley maintained a subsistence farm. In 1934, Liberty County counted 560 African-American farmers cultivating 23,000 acres of their own land.

Ripley retired from the sawmill in 1940 but continued to do odd jobs around Midway and Dorchester, all while maintaining his farm. He died in 1988. The property was sold in 1994 and was used as a bed and breakfast for a time. It doesn’t appear to be in use at this time, but the property is well-maintained and is still being used as a small farm. Please note that it is private property and can only be viewed or photographed from the road.

National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under -LIBERTY COUNTY

Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters at the Gathering, Riceboro

I drove down to Riceboro yesterday to see the wonderful work Jim Bacote (above, right) has done with Geechee Kunda and to check out his Gathering, an annual celebration of Geechee and Gullah culture. Jim is passionate about preserving the ways of his culture and it’s tangible. Geechee Kunda is the culmination of his lifelong fascination with this endangered culture. I first met him a couple of years ago when he was still working on his museum and history center so I didn’t get to make any photographs. He invited me to come back and  I’m so glad I finally got to see it yesterday.

The highlight for me was a performance by the Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters (not to be confused with the McIntosh County Shouters, who organized about a decade before the Geechee Gullah). This group of dedicated men and women share the ring shout with the world and aim for authenticity. They’re historic interpreters of the highest order and preserve a tradition that was thought to be extinct as recently as 1980. Historians believe the ring shout is the oldest surviving African performance tradition in North America. While “shouting” in the vocal sense is a part of the performance, linguist Lorenzo Dow Turner, who spent a lifetime researching the Gullah language and culture, suggested that the term came from the Afro-Arabic word saut. This is a reference to the forward-moving shuffle, during which the feet are not to cross, associated with pilgrimages to the Kabaa at Mecca.

It’s hard not to come away from a performance by the Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters with a better understanding of a culture that, especially as white Southerners, we have kept at a distance at best or dismissed altogether at worst.

One thing you’ll quickly notice when you’re around the Shouters is their charisma. They’re very passionate about what they’re doing and you can feel it. You not only learn but you’re uplifted, as well.

In 2011, the Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters set the Guinness World Record for leading the largest recorded ring shout, during the “Word, Shout, Song” exhibit at the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum in Washington, D. C.

Besides the world record ring shout, the group is also proud to have among their performers Mrs. Butler (above, right), who at 90 is the world’s oldest living ring shouter. She’s amazing.

At the end of the performance, a narrative of Emancipation is re-enacted and is quite powerful. If you couldn’t already tell, I was very moved by these living historians and would encourage anyone who has the opportunity to attend one of their events.

 

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Filed under -LIBERTY COUNTY, Riceboro GA

Jake’s Place, Darien

jakes place darien ga photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2016

Jake’s Places has been an important cultural center in Darien’s historically black Mentionville neighborhood for decades. It was a once a stop on the Chitlin’ Circuit and legends like B.B. King, Little Richard and James Brown all played here. I believe it is presently closed due to a recent history of violent incidents.

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Filed under -MCINTOSH COUNTY, Darien GA

Isle of Hope Union Baptist Church, 1941, Sandfly

Isle of Hope Union Baptist Church Sandfly GA Savannah Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2016

This historic congregation was organized on 23 June 1873 by Lucius Houston, John Simmons and the Reverend Quives Frazier.  The present structure was rebuilt to replace the original meeting house in 1941.  Reverend Collins Tilson was pastor at the time; Jacob Golden, Frank Elliott, Israel Elliott, Isaac Golden, and Norman Thomas were deacons. The cornerstone was placed in the Masonic tradition.

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Filed under -CHATHAM COUNTY, Sandfly GA

Kilkenny, Circa 1845, Bryan County

Killkenny Plantation Antebellum Landmark Bryan County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

Overlooking Kilkenny Creek (sometimes referred to as the Kilkenny River), Kilkenny (pronounced “Kill-Cainey”) was the 662-arcre property of Thomas Young (1733-1808) beginning around 1765. Young was the son-in-law of the property’s original owner, James Maxwell, Jr. As Thomas Young was a Loyalist, Killkenny was confiscated from him through the 1778 Acts of Attainder and sold to George Cubbedge. Intervention by Young’s friends returned the property to him, though he was prohibited from voting or holding office for 17 years.

Kilkenny Plantation Clubhouse Bryan County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

Young’s executors sold Kilkenny to Charles W. Rogers in 1836; Rogers then conveyed the property to his son, the Reverend Charles W. Rogers, Jr., and secured a nearby plantation, Cottenham, for his other son, William M. Rogers. The plantation was used primarily for the production of Sea Island cotton. Little is known of the Rogers family today, though it is thought that Reverend Rogers spent very little time here. In 1850, although Rogers 125 slaves were enumerated in the census, he himself did not appear as a citizen of Bryan County. His plantation primarily produced food crops for the slaves. By 1860, the plantation was producing more cotton than any other in the county and the value of the property had increased five-fold, to $30,000. 153 slaves were enumerated in the 1860 census, but Rogers was still not listed as a citizen of Bryan County. By 1874, Kilkenny had grown to 3,500 acres and was sold to James M. Butler. From this date onward, the property changed hands five times. When acquired by James H. Furber in 1890 the Kilkenny Club was established. (Locally, and on some maps, the area is still known as Kilkenny Club or Kilkenny Fishing Camp). A prominent later owner was Tennessee governor John I. Cox, who sold it to Henry Ford in 1931. Ford restored the property around this time, and it was apparently one of his favorites.

Kilkenny Plantation Henry Ford Restoration Bryan County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

The house is unusual in this area because it’s neither Plantation Plain nor Sandhill Cottage style. The house, built with a four- over-four central hall plan, it’s weatherboarded on three sides and features vertical boards on the front. The main gable features a small widow’s walk. The most unusual feature of the house, though, is the placement of ten small vertical (eyebrow) windows between the roof eaves and the porch roof.

Kilkenny Plantation Kitchen Bryan County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

The kitchen (above photo) is among the most important remaining antebellum outbuildings on the Georgia coast. Though the exterior has been weatherboarded to match the house, the interior remains virtually untouched. Pegged beams are visible and a sleeping loft reachable by stairs ascending the chimney remains.

Kilkenny Plantation Bryan County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

An oak driveway, or alley,  is one of the most impressive features of the property, with many ancient specimens remaining.

Kilkenny GA Plantation Oak Drive Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

This is the view of Kilkenny Creek looking south from Kilkenny Bluff, in front of the house.

Kilkenny River Looking South Bryan County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

http://focus.nps.gov/GetAsset?assetID=0f3e7596-94a0-444c-ba36-0a48064f3159

 

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Filed under -BRYAN COUNTY

Neighborhood Store, Freedmen’s Grove

Freedmens Grove GA Liberty County Historic African American Store Building Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

In 2011, Kimberly Robinson told Vanishing South Georgia that her father owns the house and the store and is in the process of slowly restoring both structures.

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Filed under -LIBERTY COUNTY, Freedmen's Grove GA

Lambright House, Freedmen’s Grove

Freedmens Grove GA Liberty County Lambright House Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

The iconic home of Rosa Lambright remains the symbol of the Freedmen’s Grove community (sometimes spelled, as on the adjacent road, Freedman or Freedman’s Grove). I can’t resist driving by when I’m in the area and have photographed it numerous times over the past eight years. Olivia Baker shared background on the house on Vanishing South Georgia on 31 March 2010: …The lady that lived in this house was a dynamic elementary school teacher. Ms. Lambright taught generations of families in the Liberty County community. She was affectionately known and respected by members of the Limerick, and Freedman Grove community, and a faithful member and leader of the “Ebernezer Presbyterian Church. [She] actively supported the annual Vacation Bible School and end of the summer “August Picnic”. The community looked forward to these events each year.  On 6 August 2010 she added: Ms. Lambright taught 1st – 3rd grades in a two-room wood framed, white schoolhouse, located about 3/4 mile down Freedman Grove Road. 4th – 5th Grades were taught by Mrs. M. Baker. Ms. Lambright taught my father and my mother, my father was born in 1918. I was born in 1945; she taught me and my four older siblings. I do not know the exact dates she taught. However, I do know that she taught between 1918 and 1950’s. On or about 1953 the two-room school closed, when similiar schools throughout Liberty County were closed and students attending these smaller 2-room “schools” were transferred to the Liberty County Elementary/High School. I subsequently graduated from Liberty County High School in 1963. Also, during those years public schools were still segregated…

Freedmens Grove GA Liberty County Lambright House Barn Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

It’s an anchor, a sustainable property of the sort that was once the rule among African-American communities in Coastal Georgia.

Freedmens Grove GA Liberty County Lambright House Spaniel on Fencepost Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

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Filed under -LIBERTY COUNTY, Freedmen's Grove GA