Good Morning Lowcountry!
Good Morning America Comes to the Lowcountry!
The morning crew of Good Morning America spent some time in the South Carolina Lowcountry focusing their attention on the rich Gullah culture of the Beaufort sea islands. According to the Gullah Geechie Corridor website, “The Gullah Geechee people are descendants of Africans who were enslaved on the rice, indigo and Sea Island cotton plantations of the lower Atlantic coast. Many came from the rice-growing region of West Africa. The nature of their enslavement on isolated island and coastal plantations created a unique culture with deep African retentions that are clearly visible in the Gullah Geechee people’s distinctive arts, crafts, foodways, music, and language.” The ancestors of the Gullah Geechie people of the Lowcountry continue the traditions of their forefathers and celebrate their rich heritage on a daily basis.
University of South Carolina graduate and Good Morning America reporter Kenneth Moton spent time with Beaufort natives Mary Rivers LeGree, Victoria Smalls and Anita Singleton Prather. Mary Rivers LeGree is a native of St Helena Island. She lives on land purchased by her ancestors during Reconstruction. Her roots are deep in the Gullah community. She is protector of the Coffin Point Praise House, which sits not too far from her home. She is also the voice for Gullah Culture at the Beaufort Visitors Center, where she educates tourists about her rich heritage. Concerned Gullah Geechie traditions will fade away with the younger generations, Mary LeGree wants places like the Coffin Point Community Praise House to be a source of inspiration to educate and preserve a culture that helped build a nation.
Victoria Smalls is the executive director of the Gullah Geechie Cultural Heritage Corridor. This area spans the Atlantic coastline from North Carolina to Florida. She shared the story of Beaufort hero Robert Smalls. He was one of the first African Americans to serve in congress. After the Civil War, this Gullah statesman purchased the property where he was formerly a slave. He advocated for black land ownership. Victoria Smalls shared her ancestors purchased 20 acres after the war and it has been handed down over the years.
Gullah culture became well known during the 1990s with the production of Nickelodeon’s Gullah Gullah Island, starring St. Helena Island’s own Ron and Natalie Daise, along with their children. The tv show explained the rich and pure culture. Since then, many shows have aired that show the rich heritage of the Gullah Geechie culture, including a recent Netflix episode of “High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America”.
From the sanctuary of the Beaufort Tabernacle Baptist Church, Gullah storyteller Anita Singleton Prather spoke of the importance of the Gullah culture as a culture of survival. She spoke of it “…as a trophy of perseverance…of people that went through horrible things, and could have been completely wiped out, but not only die we survive, but we continued to thrive…We’re still here.”
For more information about other Gullah landmarks in the Lowcountry visit southcarolinalowcountry.com/african-american-cultural-sites-across-the-lowcountry/