On January 30, 2015, President Barack Obama issued a proclamation designating February 2015 as National African American History Month.
In keeping with the celebration, I am posting a slideshow of images from my project about the Gullah Geechee people of the Sea Islands of the United States.
The Gullah Geechee people are direct descendants of enslaved Africans who were brought to the United States from West Africa during the antebellum period. They are known as Gullah in North and South Carolina and Geechee in Georgia and Florida.
When slavery was abolished in 1863 and plantation owners abandoned their property along the southeastern coast and on the Sea Islands, the Gullah Geechee settled on land where they had once been held as slaves. There, the they maintained their African customs and traditions — crafting intricate sea grass baskets, burying their dead by the seashore so their spirits could return to Africa, holding ring-shouts and other religious ceremonies, cultivating vegetables and fruits for sustenance and, generally, living life simply.
Since then, the Gullah Geechee of the Sea Islands have continued to pass their land and traditions down through the generations. As a result, theirs is believed to be one of the most authentic African American cultures in the United States today.
But the Gullah Geechee way of life is in danger of being consumed by golf courses, exclusive resorts and million-dollar homes as developers flock to the Sea Islands and nearby coastal areas. Escalating property taxes have forced many Gullah Geechee off their family land, and gated communities have restricted their access to traditional hunting grounds and fishing areas. Additionally, large corporate fishing operations and pollution from rampant development have made it difficult for independent Gullah Geechee shrimpers and oystermen to survive.
In 2004, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named the Gullah Geechee Coast, which extends hundreds of miles between Cape Fear, N.C., and the St. Johns River in Florida, as one of the 11 most endangered places in the United States. The National Trust’s Website says that “unless something is done to halt the destruction, [the] Gullah Geechee culture will be relegated to museums and history books, and our nation’s unique cultural mosaic will lose one of its richest and most colorful pieces.”
SALE ON LIMITED EDTION PRINTS
Many of the images from this project are available as limited edition prints. For all of National African American History Month I am offering 25% off on all sizes of these editions.
A gallery of these prints can be found here: LIMITED EDTIONS
Use coupon code “historymonth2015” during checkout to receive the discount.