Photo courtesy of the Coastal Discovery Museum

 

The Gullah culture has woven its way into the fabric of the Lowcountry. Hilton Head Island offers visitors the chance to learn more about this unique and complex culture through guided historical tours.

All along the Atlantic coastline from North Carolina to northern Florida are Sea Island communities of people who are direct descendants of slaves from West Africa. In South Carolina, this language and culture is referred to as “Gullah.” In Georgia, it’s called “Geechee.”

When the Civil War ended and slaves were freed, most plantation owners sold their lands to their freed slaves and left the area. With no bridges and little contact with the outside world, these Native Islanders were able to maintain their culture and language.

Their descendant’s continue to maintain their unique folklore and traditions. In 2006, the National Heritage Areas Act was signed into law establishing the federal Gullah/Geechee Heritage Corridor Commission to protect and promote this endangered culture.

Daufuskie Island is a wellspring of Gullah culture and history. After a short boat ride from Hilton Head, you can join a guided history tour, either aboard a colorfully painted school bus, on a four-passenger golf cart, or a walking tour. You can also rent a golf cart for a self-guided exploration of the magic of the Island. Customized private excursions to the Island are also available.

The Gullah Museum of Hilton Head, located in a restored 1930s “haint blue” cabin, strives to preserve, protect and promote the Gullah culture. The museum received the esteemed 2012 National Preservation Honor Award by National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Even though the museum is still in its early stages of development, it is open for tours on Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., or by appointment Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. Tours are conducted by Gullah storyteller Louise Cohen. Visitors will learn what life was like on Hilton Head before a bridge was built to the mainland in 1956.

The museum is located behind the historical marker at 187 Gumtree Road, between William Hilton Parkway (US 278) and Squire Pope Road. For more information about their tour hours, call (843) 681-3254.

For more information, contact:

Calibogue Cruises (843) 342-8687

Gullah Museum of Hilton Head Island (843) 681-3254

Outside Hilton Head (800) 686-6996

The Vagabond (Vagabond Cruises) (843-363-9023)

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