Eboni Bryson | Staff Writer
For this upcoming spring semester, N.C. State is offering an Africana Studies course (AFS 497) focusing on the Gullah/Geechee Nation. This course will feature a service trip that allows students to travel to Charleston, SC and St. Helena Island to visit prominent landmarks while participating various service learning opportunities.
Members of the Gullah/Geechee culture are descendants of West and Central Africa. Residing from Wilmington, N.C. to Jacksonville, FL, the Gullah/Geechee people call fishing and farming areas of the Atlantic coast their home. Their ancestors were first brought to the New World in the 1700s and were forced to mainly cultivate rice. According to the National Park Service, “…due to the geographic barriers of the coastal landscape…” the Gullah/Geechee people have been able to maintain their West African heritage and thus create a culture of their own. In these low-country regions, Gullah and Creole are the primary languages. Congressman James E. Clyburn says “The Gullah/Geechee culture is the last vestige of fusion of African and European languages and traditions brought to these coastal areas.”
In 2006, Congress designated The Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor. Under the National Heritage Acts of 2006, it was formed to recognize the contributions of the Gullah/Geechee culture and to help preserve its cultural artifacts to better educate the public. Still today, rice is just as big of a staple in the culture as it was in the the 1700’s. Seafood and rice are not only dominant parts of the culture’s diet, but artifacts of their environment and remnants of their ancestral past. Reuters.com reported the first Gullah/Geechee float was featured in President Barack Obama’s inauguration parade in 2013. This year, American Idol Winner, Candice Glover shed a new light on South Carolina’s lowcountry and the Gullah/Geechee culture. TheGrio.com labeled her as an ambassador for the Gullah/Geechee culture following her win. According to the Charleston City Paper, development of real estate and sharp increases in county taxes has left those of the Gullah/Geechee culture scrambling to maintain and preserve the land and culture that has been there for hundreds of years.
The three-credit course will provide opportunities for students to participate in service while learning about a culture that’s not often recognized. To find out more about the course, feel free to contact Dr. Tracey Ray at Tracey_Ray@ncsu.edu.