Gullah traditions are the customs, beliefs and ways of life that have been passed down among Sea Island families. Making sweetgrass baskets, quilting, and knitting fishing nets are a few of the crafts that parents and grandparents teach children. Folklore, stories and songs have also been handed down over the years. Many of the traditions that have been preserved by the Native Islanders have origins in West Africa.
The annual Gullah Festival is held in Beaufort in May. This is just one of the events held throughout the year to celebrate Gullah traditions in South Carolina. It's a chance to see craft demonstrations, hear stories and music, and taste delicious food. Traditional recipes include seafood dishes and Low Country favorites such as hoppin' john, sweet potato pie and benne wafers.
The York W. Bailey Museum at the Penn Center on St. Helena's Island and the Avery Research Center at the College of Charleston have year-round exhibits that provide a firsthand look at Gullah culture and the link to African and African-American people.
ABOVE PICTURE: "Uncle Sam Polite" knits a fishnet and teaches students at the Penn School in 1910. From the Penn School Collection. Permission granted by Penn Center, Inc., St. Helena Island, SC.
traditions (tra.di.tions) n. - customs, beliefs and ways of life that have been passed down from one generation to the next.
Sea Islands (sea is.lands) - a group of islands off the coasts of South Carolina, Georgia and North Florida.
sweetgrass basket (sweet.grass bas.ket) n. - a coiled, handmade basket made of sweetgrass.
craft (craft) n. - a job or activity needing skill and experience, especially in making objects like baskets or quilts.
preserve (pre.serve) v. - to keep something the same or prevent it from being damaged or destroyed.
Native Islander (na.tive is.land.er) n. - one of the original inhabitants or lifelong residents of the Sea Islands.
origin (o.ri.gin) n. - where something begins or comes from.
West Africa (west af.ri.ca) - the region of western Africa between the Sahara Desert and the Gulf of Guinea.
hoppin' John (hop.pin john) n. - brown field peas cooked with rice; eaten for good luck.
benne wafer (ben.ne wa.fer) n. - a cookie made with sesame seeds and eaten for good luck; introduced by slaves from West Africa.