Gullah refers not only to a language but also to a culture and a still vibrant community bolstered by the resiliency of courage and the heritage of its forefathers. Brought to America as enslaved people, the Gullah remains one of the most culturally distinctive African American populations in the United States. From Reconstruction to the Depression, the Gullah lived in isolated coastal settlements on the Sea Islands along the southeastern US, including Hilton Head Island. During this time, they established a rich culture with authentic West African components including a distinctive language, history, economic system and artistic traditions. Their artistry in music, basketry, quilt making, folklore, cuisine, and the healing arts all showcase the strong familial and cultural ties that developed into the extraordinary Gullah society. Welcoming of all who want to learn more about their traditions and history, the “living, breathing” Gullah people of Hilton Head Island invite you to “Kumbaya!” (come by here!).
The distinctive Gullah language is just part of the story! Born from ancestral African tongues and a true gift for storytelling, come the haunting rhythms, the beautiful melodies and the clever yet poignant fables of the Gullah.
The Gullah story began in the Southeastern US as the struggle for freedom by the enslaved peoples of West African descent, and developed into the vibrant and tradition-rich Gullah/Geechee culture.
Because of their isolation on the sea islands, Gullah were heavily bound to the environment around them and while this afforded them some autonomy, it also meant they were separated from any mainland conveniences. Survival likened to hard work from the sweat of one’s brow and living off the natural abundance of the Lowcountry land, marsh and sea.
Rich with traditions brought from west and central Africa, Gullah music, cuisine, familial life, folk beliefs, storytelling and crafts evolved into many of the familiar aspects of Gullah/Geechee culture we celebrate today.
Mitchelville – the first self-governed freedman’s town in the United States. More than simply a historically significant site, the Mitchelville story serves to educate, enlighten and inspire the public about the sacrifice and perseverance of the Mitchelville freedman so many years ago.
From internationally recognized contemporary and folk artists, to historic sites and museums to annual festivals, delving deeper into the Gullah culture is as simple as setting foot in Hilton Head Island!