Black-Inhabited Gullah Geechee Islands in U.S. Combat for Tourism on Individual Terms

Skift Choose

Tourism can carry billions of dollars to the Gullah Geechee Corridor alongside the Southeast coast in the U.S.. The obstacle is ensuring most of it does not get siphoned off by income-maximizing outsiders.

Gullah Geechee communities are turning tourism into an empowering pressure that can assist continue to keep them in management of their ancestral lands and tales when preserving and sharing their exclusive heritage.

Gullah Geechee historically lived on the coastal regions and sea islands of Ga, South Carolina, North Carolina and Florida. They are descendants of West and Central Africans slaves introduced to cultivate rice, cotton and indigo. Because of their remote places away from white domination via and because the Civil War, they’ve taken care of a exclusive lifestyle, artwork, delicacies, tunes and language that retained a great deal of its African affect. There are an estimated one million Gullah Geechee folks.

They have been gradually shedding their lands to outsiders above decades, a craze that has accelerated in recent years. Attracted to the land’s pristine shorelines, weather and surroundings, builders have come to make resorts, residential homes, gated communities and golf classes in several parts. Community and state governments have also taken land by means of eminent domain to make infrastructure. 

In some scenarios, developments were being constructed irresponsibly. On Hilton Head Island, for instance, some gated resorts sit on Gullah Geechee lands. “There are Gullah Geechee sacred grounds that all those gates hinder the descendants from likely to honor their cherished ones that are buried,” Victoria Modest, govt director of Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor NHA, a federal Nationwide Heritage Space established by Congress in 2006 to protect Gullah lifestyle. The corridor spans 12,000 sq. miles alongside Ga, South Carolina, North Carolina and Florida.

Desire in living in these regions accelerated for the duration of the pandemic as remote personnel purchased up residences to get away from crowded regions, a Skift megatrend skilled by other remote locations. “It has accelerated to the position where a good deal of our advocacy has to offer with preserving Gullah land and advocating for Gullah Geechee communities,” Little said.

Gentrification has prompted house taxes to go up, forcing quite a few locals to have to market houses passed down generations, stated Kenneth Hodges, who also runs the Gullah Geechee Site visitors Heart on Saint Helena Island and is the reverend of Tabernacle Baptist Church. In addition, some of the developments constrained the waterway use of the Gullah, lots of of which rely on it for fishing, shrimping, crabbing and oystering for their livelihoods.

To help maintain community tradition, land possession and independence, the center encourages and develops heritage tourism. In 2020, the centre produced a Report Market place for Gullah Geechee Heritage Tourism to assist spot marketing organizations superior discover Gullah Geechee property. 

Group users at Igbo Landing Collaborative Convention, Dunbar Creek, St. Simons Island, GA. Source: Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor NHA/ Tendaji Bailey

One of the essential findings of the report, which included a survey of about 1,000 travelers, was that elevating recognition of Gullah lifestyle prospects to more powerful probability of visits. In 2021, the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Fee mobilized a tourism alliance of gurus and locals to assist these types of attempts. It reinforces a Skift megatrend that locals are no for a longer period spectators in vacation.

Before this calendar year, Intrepid Travel, Blacks in Travel & Tourism  and Cultural Heritage Alliance for Tourism, Inc, facilitated a big push vacation.


This journey was everything. Was for function but sharing in this article is not aspect of my agreement. I just preferred a place to share some of these times. You can google “intrepid journey gullah geechee” to discover a lot more on the tour.

♬ unique audio – Anela Malik

Heritage tourism will catch the attention of again individuals who remaining to come across employment in Atlanta, Charleston and other towns, specially the more youthful generations. “With the curiosity in cultural and heritage tourism, it also opens the window of alternatives for all those individuals,” Hodges claimed. 

It could convey $34 billion in traveler paying to the Gullah Geechee Corridor, according to the market place report. Some locals have developed tour operator firms, artwork galleries and eating places to make the most of their genuine and exceptional lifestyle.

Kingsley Plantation at Timucuan Ecological & Historic Maintain in Jacksonville, FL. Supply: Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor NHA/ Angel Parson

Community tourism industries are also getting detect of the electric power of the Gullah tales. “For them, tourism was extra less the golfing outlets and persons who have been captivated to that or some other aspects, but now that they are also started to see that ‘Hey the uniqueness is in the richness of their tradition,’ Hodges stated. 

Some inns, for case in point, on Hilton Head Island and in Charleston, South Carolina, have displays in their lobbies to showcase Gullah culture or convey in Gullah sweetgrass master basket sowers to elevate the visitor practical experience, in accordance to Tiny.

But there remains skepticism in some elements of the Gullah local community about the rewards of tourism. “A ton of moments when they think about tourism, they consider of it all as tourism delivers in the huge inns and the native conclusion up just serving in the hospitality field,” Hodges claimed. Tourism has a historical past of not currently being inclusive of marginalized communities, a takeaway from the Skift Sustainability Summit.

Tourism leaders continue on to educate the local community that heritage tourism can carry them to the stage exactly where there are possibilities to turn out to be an entrepreneur and explain to their genuine tale, Hodges claimed. The truth is, however, if the Gullah never notify their tale, it’ll close up advised by outsiders, he reported