Celebrate The Gullah Culture This February In South Carolina

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This February, in honor of Black History Month, South Carolina is celebrating the Gullah culture - the most culturally distinctive African American population in the United States - with a variety of special events and attractions.

From tales of Brer Rabbit to fish-laden gumbo stews, the Gullah culture of South Carolina's Lowcountry and nearby coastal areas has become part of the fabric of America and continues its influence today. This February, in honor of Black History Month, South Carolina is celebrating the Gullah culture - the most culturally distinctive African American population in the United States - with a variety of special events and attractions.

For centuries, the imprint of West African traditions from story telling to cooking was carried over the Atlantic by the thousands of Africans who were brought to the New World as slaves. Though most of each day was spent fulfilling the demands of plantation owners - people whose culture was foreign to theirs - many of these African Americans found ways to preserve tradition in every aspect of their new lives. Once emancipated, many lived in remote communities on barrier islands off the coast of South Carolina and, due to transportation limitations, had little contact with Europeans. This fostered the creation and preservation of a new dialect, a blend of European and African tongues that became known as Gullah.

Well-known artistic and culinary contributions from the early Gullah culture have survived today and are emblematic of a vibrant legacy. Contributions include the rare shrimper who creates cast nets, African "long strip" quilting, meticulous weaving of sweetgrass baskets and the giving of "basket" names at birth, a revival of indigo cultivation and textile printing in the West African style and numerous chefs who keep to traditions of African foods - such as she-crab soup and benne seed cookies.

South Carolina offers the following special events and attractions related to the Gullah culture this February.

Gullah-n-Geechie Mahn Tour - St. Helena Island, S.C.
Tour St. Helena and the surrounding Sea Islands. Stories and contributions of Africans and how they significantly helped to influence the growth and development of America will come alive on this tour. Group packages will be available, including educational seminars, cultural performances, traditional arts and crafts demonstrations, meal packages and lodging. For more information please visit http://www.gullahngeechietours.net.

Gullah O'oman Shop - Pawleys Island, S.C.
This unique shop features the best of the Lowcountry's crafts - Gullah collectibles, story quilts, sweetgrass baskets, African artifacts, arts and more. Tours, lectures and seminars on Gullah history and culture too. For more information please call (843) 235-0747.

Gullah Tours - Charleston, S.C.
Gullah Tours explores the places, history and stories that are relevant to the rich and varied contributions made by African American Charlestonians. Tour guide, Alphonso Brown, is a native of Rantowles, a rural community near Charleston, and is fluent in Gullah dialect and familiar with many of the Gullah customs. Gullah Tours provides a view of Charleston not available on other tours from the comfort of a 21-passenger, air-conditioned tour bus. For more information please visit http://www.gullahtours.com.

Ms. Natalie's Workshop - Beaufort, S.C.
A whimsical Gullah Island Gift Shop in Beaufort offers unusual and fun musical instruments, handcrafted and hand-painted furniture, creative gifts and a craft room for anyone who's a kid at heart. Ms. Natalie's Workshop is a colorful interactive, warm place to be that sparks the imagination. For more information please visit http://www.gullahgullah.com/workshop.html.

Native Islander Gullah Celebration - Hilton Head Island, S.C.
Held annually in February, the month-long celebration features the arts, crafts, history, music and food of the Gullah people through various events held each weekend on Hilton Head Island. For more information please visit http://www.gullahcelebration.com.

Penn Center - St. Helena Island, S.C.
Located on St. Helena Island, one of the most beautiful and historically distinct of the South Carolina Sea Islands, Penn Center sits at the heart of Gullah culture, on the 50 acres of the historical campus of Penn School. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1974, it is a part of the Penn School Historic District which comprised of 19 buildings related to and used by Penn School, the first school for freed slaves in the South. The site also includes the meeting facility where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his colleagues met during the Civil Rights Era, a nature trail, Chowan Creek, acres of pines, native flora and fauna.
For more information please visit http://www.penncenter.com.

The Self Family Arts Center - Hilton Head Island, S.C.
This $10 million facility on Hilton Head Island provides a focus for all the arts under one roof - from theater to gallery, music to dance. The Arts Center showcases visual and performing arts events during February which explore the traditions and cultures of African American heritage. For more information please visit http://www.artscenter-hhi.org.

Sweet Grass Tours - Charleston, S.C.
This heritage tour, conducted by certified historic guides, features over 325 years of stories, including slavery, free African Americans, artisans, architecture, Gullah, wars, music and more. Includes group tours by bus or by walking through the city of Charleston. For more information please call (843) 556-0664.

South Carolina is a destination rich in vibrant landscapes, diverse culture and extensive history. Located on the southeast coast of the United States and bordered by North Carolina and Georgia, South Carolina is acclaimed for approximately 200 miles of idyllic Atlantic Ocean coastline. The Palmetto State is the place to explore nature's best, unwind in first-class luxury hotels and spas, celebrate at a variety of festivals or find a small-town gem. Anywhere within its borders, visitors will find smiling faces and beautiful places. For a South Carolina vacation guide, please call the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism at (866) 224-9339. For more information on South Carolina, visit the Web site at http://www.DiscoverSouthCarolina.com.

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