This view of the Mud River, near the edge of Sapelo Sound, was made from inside the historic tabby barn at Chocolate.
Tag Archives: African-American Culture of Coastal Georgia
Though it has been expanded during its history, the original circa 1869 core remains in this venerable church, built by Freedmen. Enslaved men and women established this congregation circa 1859 and when they were able, they built their own house of worship, which still serves their descendants to this day. If you’re driving to Christ Church or Fort Frederica, don’t overlook this important part of the island’s history.
I recently had the pleasure of revisiting and photographing the wonderful Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters at the 2020 African-American Festival at Fort Frederica National Monument. Visit this link to learn more about the history of the ring shout and the Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters. As I’ve told nearly everyone who will listen, the Shouters are a real treasure and I encourage all to attend one of their performances if they have the opportunity. I’m presenting these photographs as a gallery, without captions, as I think the photographs speak for themselves.
Major Pierce Butler (1744-1822) purchased Hampton Point near the northern end of St. Simons Island in 1774. Butler served South Carolina in the American Revolution, was a member of the Continental Congress, a Signer of the Constitution, and the first United States senator elected from South Carolina. Since he divided most of hist time between Charleston and Philadelphia, he hired Roswell King to manage his plantations in Georgia. After the death of Butler’s wife in 1790, his South Carolina plantations were sold and his primary focus shifted to Hampton Point and other Georgia Sea Island plantations. Hampton Point was his largest cotton operation with the largest slave population.
n 1805, Major Butler retired from politics and spent most of his time in Philadelphia. Upon his death his namesake grandson inherited Butler’s vast holdings in Coastal Georgia. The younger Butler did not prove as good a businessman as his grandfather and to remain financially solvent sold off his slaves in 1859. Approximately 436 human beings were auctioned near Savannah in what has come to be known as The Weeping Time, for its separation of numerous families. It is believed to be the largest single sale of human beings in history. The plantation burned in 1871, leaving only traces of the tabby structures built by those enslaved on the property.
Ruins of Slave Dwellings at Hampton Point Plantation
The ruins of four slave dwellings are visible today. While only two retain significant architectural features, all are important to the story of the enslaved people of St. Simons Island. I have no way to date them as I only had brief access and have not located documentation regarding dates of construction. If I were to venture a guess I’d estimate 1800-1830. They appear to have nearly identical floor plans to the slave dwellings at Hamilton Plantation.
The ruins are located on private property and I visited with a resident. Though I photographed all four visible dwelling sites, I’m only sharing the two which retain the most significant architectural features. For identification purposes, I’m calling one North Dwelling and the other South Dwelling.
The North Dwelling retains a small section of its northeastern wall and the scattered remnants of its hearth.
The South Dwelling is the most intact of the four sites, retaining sections of all four walls, a defined window, doorway, and hearth.
Arguably Darien’s most beautiful church, St. Cyrpian’s can trace its origins to the years of devastation following the Civil War. Reverend Dr. James Wentworth Leigh arrived in the area from Great Britain in 1873 and initiated a project to provide a church for the freedmen of Darien. Donations came from Europe, Philadelphia, and elsewhere to assist the fledgling congregation in their quest to build a suitable home. They named their church St. Cyprian’s for the martyred African Bishop. Using the construction techniques they knew best, the men of St. Cyprian’s built the church using tabby and brick. It is one of the most significant tabby structures still in use.
Darien Historic District, National Register of Historic Places
At 88 years young Annie Lucille Greene doesn’t seem to be caught up in the past, yet her work draws heavily from memory. Mrs. Greene, who grew up in Hinesville in the 1940s, tells her life story through yarn art, a process which first involves drawing images on a surface, then gluing different pieces of colored yarn to create a seamless mosaic. There’s a strong similarity to the Impressionist style known as Pointillism. Mrs. Greene actually refers to it as yarn “painting” and upon seeing the work in person, one completely understands. Presently, she is exhibiting What Color is Water: Tales and Art About a Segregated South as the featured event of the Black History Art and Humanities Program at the McIntosh Art Association in Darien. I’m honored to have met and photographed this amazing lady.
Annie’s parents, Henry William and Ella Mae Tarver, were both pioneering black educators. They encouraged her doodling and drawing from an early age and they supported her creative efforts by buying art supplies. When Annie was 12, the family moved to Hogansville to work in the black school there.
Summers were spent visiting her maternal grandparents on their farm near Adel. Mrs. Greene told me she didn’t like the farm work, but she loved the food. “The food was really good,” she recalled.
Annie spent her first year in college at Spelman but wasn’t happy there. She transferred to Albany State and loved it, Upon graduating in 1954 she was offered a job teaching in LaGrange. It was there that she married Oliver Nathaniel Greene, a Social Studies teacher. They had two children, and while Nathaniel was in New York, completing his Masters in Education at Columbia University, Annie stayed home and took a break from teaching. Dean Robert Simmons encouraged her to go to New York University and she graduated from there in 1956. She received her Masters Degree in Art Education in 1961 and went on to have a long and successful career in the Troup County school system.
Her third and latest book, which is available at the McIntosh Art Association, presents a blend of her work, from early memories to the Civil Rights activism of the 1960s. The images are much better seen in person and I encourage anyone in the Darien area to visit the exhibit. Details can be found here.
The opening reception at the McIntosh Art Association was very well attended and I think everyone enjoyed meeting Mrs. Greene and her husband.
She has exhibited and toured her fine work all over the Southeast but doesn’t keep as busy a schedule as she once did. As a result, you might want to visit this one as soon as you can.