Walking the streets of Charleston is like stepping back in time. It’s a city steeped in history. Whether you’re wandering the battery or shopping in the old City Market, Charleston’s often checkered past has shaped the city into an experience unique from any other.
After your procedure at the Southeastern Spine Institute, you may have time to kill. Visiting Charleston’s past always makes for an interesting adventure. And if you’re looking for Gullah culture, you won’t have to look very far. It’s often as easy as following the delicious scents drifting down the street to find an authentic Gullah meal. Their food, as well as their art and religion, have become staples of the Palmetto State.
Gullah Culture Heritage
The people, races and cultures that have clashed in the low-country regions of the South have left their marks. But the Gullah culture and Geechee influences that served to shape the region still endure today. The Gullah culture is rich and full; ripe with stories of heartache and triumph. True appreciation of their culture comes from an understanding of who these people are, how they live and where they come from.
The transatlantic slave trade that began in the 17th century introduced a large African population to the New World colonies. The rice-producing plantations typically sought Africans from what later became known as Sierra Leone, because this coastal area was known for its traditional rice production.
The rice plantations along the coast of South Carolina and Georgia and the adjacent sea islands developed a strong sense of community. Their geographic isolation helped them preserve more of their African heritage than any other group of African Americans. High rates of tropical diseases drove many white planters from their plantations, which inadvertently gave their slaves a larger measure of freedom over the way they lived.
As a result, the Gullah are a distinctive group of African Americans. They speak a form of Creole language similar to the Krio of Sierra Leone. They remain highly skilled in creating African style art and handicrafts. And they’ve also contributed sumptuous cuisine to menus across the South.
The Gullah descendants of today still live in many of the same places that were home to their ancestors. And they still practice their crafts and beliefs. This strong Gullah culture has managed to survive slavery, war and encroachment, standing the test of time.
The city of Charleston takes pride in their Gullah/Geechee heritage, offering an array of tours and museums to educate, celebrate and entertain. Some more notable tours include the city’s east side and stops along the Underground Railroad. You can indulge in traditional Gullah fare at many places across the city — at local favorites such as:
- Bertha’s Kitchen
- Charlie Brown Seafood
- Hannibal’s Kitchen
- Martha Lou’s Kitchen
- Nana’s Seafood and Soul
- My Three Sons
And you can even take a piece of Gullah’s living history home. The traditional, hand-sewn “sweetgrass” baskets and weaving are still crafted today, the same way they’ve been for hundreds of years. Whether it’s history, food, or art, Charleston’s ethnic diversity will speak directly to your soul. Take the time to enjoy the area, a feast for all your senses.