Tag Archives: Gullah-Geechee Culture

Harrington Graded School, 1920s, St. Simons Island

The recent restoration of this historic African-American schoolhouse is one of the greatest preservation successes on the Georgia coast and should serve as a model for similar projects. After the Civil War and the collapse of the plantation economy, the descendants of enslaved persons remained on St. Simons and lived in the communities of South End, Jewtown, and Harrington. They were the dominant population on St. Simons until development in the early and mid-20th century changed the racial makeup of the island. Only remnants of their presence remain, and among them, the Harrington Graded School (thought to be a Rosenwald school), and Hazel’s Cafe, are the most significant.

The school served all three African-American communities until desegregation in the 1960s and was briefly used as a day care center until being abandoned in the early 1970s. It was eventually purchased by Glynn County and the St. Simons Land Trust but due to deterioration, it was slated for demolition in 2010. The Land Trust and the St. Simons African American Heritage Coalition formed the Friends of Harrington School and saved the school house. Serious work began in 2015 and by December 2016, the school was restored to its former glory.

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Filed under -GLYNN COUNTY, St. Simons Island GA

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 folkways. Jim is passionate about preserving this history and it’s tangible. Geechee Kunda is the culmination of his lifelong fascination with this endangered way of life. 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

Traditional Architecture, Hog Hammock

Sapelo Island GA Hog Hammock Community Abandoned Vernacular House Picture Image Photograph © Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2013

This is among the older and more traditional housing styles in the Hog Hammock community.

Hog Hammock Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under -MCINTOSH COUNTY, Hog Hammock GA, Sapelo Island GA

Julius Green House, Hog Hammock

Hog Hammock GA Sapelo Island Vernacular House with Screened In Front Porch Oak Trees Spanish Moss Picture Image Photograph © Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2013

Hog Hammock Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under -MCINTOSH COUNTY, Hog Hammock GA, Sapelo Island GA

Mary Parker House, Hog Hammock

Mary Parker House Hog Hammock GA Sapelo Island Historic Gullah Geechee Community Endangered Picture Image Photograph © Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2013

Hog Hammock Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under -MCINTOSH COUNTY, Hog Hammock GA, Sapelo Island GA

Sapelo Orange Grove, Hog Hammock

Sapelo Island GA Orange Grove Sign Picture Image Photograph © Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2013

Hog Hammock Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under -MCINTOSH COUNTY, Hog Hammock GA, Sapelo Island GA

First African Baptist Church at Raccoon Bluff, 1900, Sapelo Island

Sapelo Island GA First African Baptist Church at Raccoon Bluff National Register Landmark Picture Image Photograph © Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2013

Established by freedmen on Sapelo Island the year after the Civil War ended, the congregation at Raccoon Bluff built the present structure from lumber that washed ashore after the hurricane of 1898. Abandoned from 1968 until 2000, it was restored through efforts of the Sapelo Island Cultural and Revitalization Society, the state of Georgia, and student from the Savannah College of Art & Design. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and its restoration represents one of the most significant efforts to preserve African-American history in Georgia, more importantly a tangible link to the Geechee-Gullah culture of the Sea Islands.

Sapelo Island GA First African Baptist Church at Raccoon Bluff National Register Landmark Sign Picture Image Photograph © Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2013

Sapelo Island GA First African Baptist Church at Raccoon Bluff National Register Landmark Dinner on the Grounds Tables Picture Image Photograph © Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2013

The congregation moved into its current home, in Hog Hammock, during the 1960s. Follow the link for an image:

https://vanishingcoastalgeorgia.com/2012/09/18/first-african-baptist-church-2/

National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under -MCINTOSH COUNTY, Sapelo Island GA