“I would describe the Gullah Geechee people as a distinct segment of the African American community. Distinct because they have been able to hold on to and retain so much of their African heritage and culture even after centuries.” Professor Jacquelyn Benton, Metropolitan State University.
The Gullah Geechee is one of the oldest African American community cultures still living in the United States. They live in the Low Country and Sea Islands of South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Brought to America as slaves, they are the only African American population with a long-standing name identifying them as a separate people. Historically, they are speakers of the only true African American Creole language of the continental United States.
“It was definitely that isolation that was also a factor [maintaining the culture].”
The Gullah Geechee people were brought from Africa specifically for their knowledge of growing rice. Unlike most slave populations that were mixed and/or separated regardless of traditional ethnic groups, the Gullah Geechee were kept together in order to grow the rice and their numbers were continually replenished with other slaves from the same area of Africa. This allowed the Gullah Geechee to keep their traditions and connections strong through their shared heritage and lack of outside influence.
Professor Benton teaches a course about the Gullah Geechee every other year at Metropolitan State University in Denver. The Mile High Friends of the Gullah Geechee is an organization started by students from Metro State who were inspired by Dr. Benton and her course. Their mission is to bring awareness and to teach about the Gullah Geechee and their impact and importance in American history.
The Mile High Friends of the Gullah Geechee is holding their first fundraiser on Sunday October 2nd on the Auraria Campus of Metropolitan State University from 3:00-6:00pm. KGNU’s Joanne Cole spoke with Professor Jacquelyn Benton teaches at Metro State in Denver and is also a member of the Mile High Friends of the Gullah Geechee.