Friday, November 5, 2010

Hilton Head, South Carolina

After the Civil War this island was left to nature and the freed slaves of the Gullah population. A bridge which connected the mainland to the island was built in 1956 and the island then became famous as a year-round resort destination. Most people know the island  for its 25 beautiful golf courses. John and I came to the island today to take a Gullah Heritage Tour. We stopped at the Coastal Discovery Museum first to sign up for the tour. We had some time before the tour started to tour the museum and the grounds which surround the museum; it was a plantation up until the time of the civil war. The camellias are just starting to bloom and I could not pass up taking a picture of them.
Also of interest in the gardens of the museum is a bottle tree. The African slaves use to hang bottles on trees in the belief that by doing so they could keep evil spirits contained in the bottles.
Our tour guide,Emory, for the Gullah Heritage Tour is a fourth generation Gullah. He drove us around 10 family-based Gullah villages that have sustained themselves for more than a century. The Gullah were slaves from West African, and over the years have kept their system of beliefs,customs and art forms. Their language in the states became a unique mixture of African and English. Emory said he and his children learned it from his grandmother. There was one Gullah expression I picked up from our tour brochure today which seemed quite applicable to what we saw in our tour of  Hilton Head: "Ebry frog praise e ownt pond". Gated communities/resorts are sprinkled between the Gullah homes. What a contrast between
the two places of residence!  Emory maintained a sense of humor with us about all the changes taking place on his island home. He commented that the island is in the shape of a shoe; it use to be a sneaker, but now it is a Nike brand. The new crop of the island is called condos. And it seems that the number of gated communities are out-numbering the Gullah neighborhoods, it is estimated that there is now only about 3,000 Gullah living on the island. Total population of the island is around 35,000.  Emory shared with us his own family history.  During his childhood the island schools only went up to 6th grade. He drove us by one of those schools, which is now no longer in use as a school.  It is located in Mitchelville, a village built for the freed slaves in 1862 and also now no longer in existence.
Emory said that he, as well as his siblings, had to leave the island for further schooling. And he was able to go on to college, majoring in biology. He also shared with us that in the 1870s one of his grandmothers attended college, his other grandmother only finished third grade. Emory was a very gracious tour guide, certainly well-informed on his Gullah heritage. We had quite a delightful afternoon with him seeing Hilton Head through his eyes.

No comments:

Post a Comment