|For immediate release
August 28, 2000
|Jessamyn Sarmiento, NPR
NPR Examines the Cost of Paradise Sea Island's Development and the Gullah Community
As part of the NPR News series The Changing
Face of America, All Things Considered will examine how an unique
African-American culture has had to deal with a mushrooming tourism industry
along the South Carolina Coast.
It's a story about the Gullah/Geechee
people. They're a group descended from enslaved Africans who managed to
retain much of their ethnic and cultural identity. Gullahs hung onto their
own ways of life and language right up to the end of the 20th century.
Their shield against the outside world was self-sufficiency and geography.
But one-by-one, vacationers have found their
way to these remote specks of land along the Georgia and South Carolina
border. Yet, the economic benefits of the tourist dollar have only slowly
found their way into Gullah pockets. So after years of protesting and
complaining, Gullah community leaders want to tap into the success of the
hotels, beachfront property and golf courses. And, in the process, they
want to share their own cultural history with the newcomers.
This scenario plays itself out in different
ways on a trio of islands we examine. There's the thoroughly altered
Daufuskie Island. Here, large tasteful developments erased have all but
erased a Gullah culture that until the 1980s spread clear across the island.
Then there's the highly successful Hilton
Head Island, the most populated of the Sea Islands.
There are two very different sections of
Hilton Head Island - the well-known tourist destination and the
long-standing, African-American Gullah community.
Hilton Head Island has long been divided
geographically. At the southern end of the island, vacation properties,
country clubs and golf courses draw visitors from around the country to a
recreational paradise whereas the northern side has been home to Gullah
families. In recent years, the two Hilton head communities have collided as
resort development has expanded northward to encompass the region where the
Gullah people live. Along with more visitors have come more vacation
properties, and busy, overhead expressways. The resulting pollution, traffic
and overcrowding has brought the once hidden Gullah community to the
forefront of Hilton Head's development debate.
Finally, there's St. Helena's island. Folks
there are using the experiences of the other islands to weigh how they will
deal with the development that will surely come.
NPR's Vertamae Grosvenor, a Gullah/Geechee
and a frequent visitor to the islands, speaks to its members to determine
what these changes have meant to them and their traditional way of life.
This The Changing Face of America report will air on All Things
Considered, Wednesday, August 30. For station information and broadcast
times, please visit NPR's Web site at www.npr.org.
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