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Fall 2012 – Second story
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Emancipation Day: The Freed People of Port Royal
VOLUME 27, NUMBER 1, FALL 2012              

Emancipation Day: The Freed People of Port Royal
By John H. Tibbetts                                                                       back to main story  

Gullah Geechee Commission's plan completed

The Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission has submitted its management plan to the National Park Service for review. The plan lays the groundwork for the preservation and public recognition of a unique African American culture threatened by development from North Carolina to northern Florida.

The management plan identifies three goals:

  • Increase understanding and awareness of Gullah Geechee people, history, and culture.
  • Support heritage-related businesses and promote land preservation.
  • Document and help preserve ­historic sites, data, artifacts, and objects for the benefit and education of the public.

There are six interpretive themes for partnership programs: origins and early development; the quest for freedom, equality, education, and recognition; global connections; connection with the land; cultural and spiritual expression; and Gullah Geechee language. The management plan is the product of six years of research and 21 public-input meetings in coastal communities in the Southeast.

A continuing challenge is to reach out to people of Gullah Geechee descent and help them understand the importance of their own history and culture.

Ronald Daise“When I was growing up, calling someone Gullah or Geechee was a slur, even in our own communities,” says Ronald Daise, the commission’s executive director and vice-president for creative education at Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet. “Those were fighting words. No one wanted to be identified as Gullah or Geechee. We called ourselves sea islanders. But starting in the 1990s, there began to be a movement to accept the uniqueness of Gullah Geechee and its place in the American fabric. We became more aware that our ancestors were brought from Africa with skills, and we have learned how language, dietary practices, customs, and beliefs were maintained over the generations.”

The commission, though, can’t create Gullah Geechee programs from scratch.

Any funding for the corridor from the National Park Service will have to be matched by towns, cities, and counties along the corridor, whether in cash or in kind.

“We can only move forward with partnerships,” says Daise. “We need part­ners to come up with ideas about how to implement programs and fund them.”

Last updated: 12/31/2012 12:51:39 PM
Fall 2012 – Second story


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