Charleston is well-known and loved for its Gullah heritage, a culture still very much alive in and around the Lowcountry. Although the Gullah people predominantly live and thrive amongst the sea islands in and around Charleston, their influence is everywhere , especially in the arts — be it culinary, musical, or visual.
A little history:
Originally brought to America for slave work, the Gullah people are made up of African-Americans who live in small communities on the sea islands of Georgia and South Carolina. Slaves were often purchased and then taken to isolated communities where their African culture was preserved and remains a beautiful and important part of Charleston’s cultural makeup.
Rice is one aspect of their culture that still has significant importance. The Gullah people have common links to the “Rice Coast” of West Africa, such as their incredible ability to cultivate rice, and that skill made them extremely valuable for slave trading. With the growth of rice and cotton cultivation, slaves quickly outnumbered the masters on the sea islands, enabling them to continue to thrive as they wished. Today, the hot, muggy climate infamous in Georgia and South Carolina’s sea islands continues to make it the perfect place for producing the grain still so beloved in South.
Though time and distance separates them, West Africans and the Gullah people still share a similar language (here, it’s known as Geechee or Gullah) and beliefs. They also share the same approach to art forms like crafts — like basket-making, net-making, and pottery — as well as food, music, folklore, and architecture. Isolated from outside influence, the Gullah people have retained more of their heritage than any other African-Americans, making the Lowcountry such a culturally rich utopia today.