Carolyn White Photos | Digital Traditions

Having learned the art of Gullah storytelling from her parents and grandparents, Carolyn "Jabulile" White thought it only natural that she should share the stories with the community, and especially the children. As the organist at St. James Presbyterian Church and owner of a small neighborhood grocery store, she has had many opportunities to practice storytelling.

Storytelling exists in every culture in one form or another. The role it has played and continues to play in the life of African Americans is especially poignant. Africans brought to the New World as slaves held on to their homeland and belief systems through oral traditions. Storytelling, therefore, became a social event within slave communities. The storyteller was not only an entertainer, but was also a source of direct community interaction by actively participating in the story. Just as the spoken word was important, so were the gestures, songs, and noises added to the story for effect by the storyteller and the audience. Stories were then, as they are now, told for entertainment, for fun, and also for their moral lessons.

As word of her stories spread, White was invited to perform Gullah tales at the African American Arts Festival, Moja. Since that appearance, she has been in great demand. With stories told in the Gullah language, a creolization of a West African language and English, she has warmed the hearts and tickled the funny bones of audiences at the Charleston Museum, West Ashley Library, Charleston County Schools, and the Mazyck Wraggborough Christmas Festival in Charleston. White received the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award in 1998.


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