Shadows of the Gullah Geechee – August Dispatches

Darryl Stoneworth harvests sweetgrass on property owned by the Okeetee Hunt Club near Hardeeville, SC.

Darryl Stoneworth harvests sweetgrass on property owned by the Okeetee Hunt Club near Hardeeville, SC.

Harvesting Sweetgrass

The Gullah who live in the communities along U.S. Route 17, north of Charleston, SC, gathered materials for their iconic sweetgrass baskets from nearby fields for years, but their access to those fields has been significantly limited since development moved in.

Today members of the community travel as far as 90 miles to gather their supplies.

Darryl Stoneworth harvests sweetgrass on property owned by the Okeetee Hunt Club near Hardeeville, SC.

Darryl Stoneworth harvests sweetgrass on property owned by the Okeetee Hunt Club near Hardeeville, SC.

On a previous trip to the Charleston area, I met Antwon Ford, a basket maker who then introduced me to his uncle Daryl Stoneworth. Daryl travels to Hardeeville, SC, to harvest sweetgrass during the summer months.

During this most recent trip, I met Daryl in Hardeeville and spent time with him and his wife as they pulled grass on a private hunting preserve that allows the Gullah to harvest the grass during the two months when hunting on the property is prohibited.

Although I had to keep a constant eye out for snakes, the experience was fascinating and educational. To top it off, I was able to make some really nice images.

A young boy on Sapelo Island hangs out with a neighbor's horses.

A young boy on Sapelo Island hangs out with a neighbor’s horses.


Return to Sapelo Island

I returned to Sapelo Island in Georgia to attempt to make images of some aspects of the Geechee culture that I am missing in this body of work.

Unfortunately, due to scheduling, I was unable to capture one of the cultural activities that I feel that I need to complete the series. I did, however, manage to make connects that will help me capture those images on a future trip, and in the meantime, I was able to make a few nice images to add to the story.

I plan to return to Sapelo when I travel to Hilton Head Island in the fall.

A US Airways plane passes over St. James Baptist Church as it takes off from the Hilton Head airport.

A US Airways plane passes over St. James Baptist Church as it takes off from the Hilton Head airport.

Scouting Hilton Head Island

While on this recent trip, I spent a bit of time on Hitlon Head Island to scout photo opportunities and attend face-to-face meetings with some old contacts on the island.

I had a wonderful lunch with my friend and renowned community leader among the Gullah people, Emory Campbell. Emory is past chairman of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission as well as a former director of the Penn Center on St. Helena Island. The Penn Center is the site of one of the first schools built in America for former slaves and promotes and preserves the history and culture of the Sea Islands.

I also made a pretty decent frame of a historic Gullah church, which has been at the center of a controversy to extend the runway of the Hilton Head Island Airport. If the runway is extended, the church may be demolished.

All Shadows of the Gullah Geechee project updates can be found here: Shadows of the Gullah Geechee Updates.

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