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Carolina's Coastal People

James Bradley
James Bradley, a commercial fisherman

The people
(L-R)NPR's Vertamae Grosvenor, Marquetta Goodwine - Queen of the Gullahs, and James Bradley.

NPR's Vertamae Grosvenor
For three centuries, the Gullah people have been making their lives on the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia. The Gullah, or "Geechee" as they are also known, are a group descended from enslaved Africans. Because these small islands were farmed and the nearby waters fished by Gullahs for generations and largely ignored by others, the speech patterns and lifestyle of islanders remained separate from that of African-Americans elsewhere in the South.

About 30 years ago, high-end tourism and development came to the region, but the Gullah managed to hold on to their own dialect and ways of life. Their shield against the outside world was self-sufficiency and geography, and until recently, the islands they occupied were difficult to get to. Acre by acre, land was bought up by outside developers. Now, the Gullah people want to profit from the little land they still own.

Writer Vertamae Grosvenor examines how rapid resort development has altered life for the Gullah people on the Sea Islands. Grosvenor was born and raised in the South Carolina low country. Her first language was Gullah, and she's the author of an autobiographical cookbook, "Vibration Cooking or the Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl," first printed in 1970, and reissued in 1986 and 1992.

audio buttonListen as Grosvenor talks with them about their desire to highlight their own cultural heritage as it vanishes, and their hope they can preserve it in the right way.

Links & Resources:
Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition

The Changing Face of America is an 18-month-long NPR series that tells the stories of regular, everyday Americans and the issues they face at a time of rapid and dramatic change in the U.S. This special series can be heard on NPR's Talk of the Nation, All Things Considered and Morning Edition.

The Changing Face of America series is sponsored by The Pew Charitable Trusts.