In the Lowcountry region of Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina, along the coastal plain and Sea Islands, is a region referred to as the Gullah Geechee Corridor. Gullah is a term that was originally used to designate the creole dialect of English spoken by Gullah and Geechee people; descendants of Central and West African slaves brought to the U.S. in the 1600s and 1700s. Because of the relative isolation from their masters while working on large rice plantations, they developed a creole culture that has preserved much of their African linguistic and cultural heritage.
The communities are often distinguished and identify as Freshwater Geechee or Saltwater Geechee, depending on whether they live on the mainland or Sea Islands.
African words that disseminated through the Gullah Geechee speaking people and into the culture at large are familiar to many living in the South, such as goober, gumbo, yam, and cooter (an edible sea turtle). The Gullah custom of painting porch ceilings haint blue to deter haints (haunts), or ghosts, was also adopted by White Southerners though its spiritual significance has been lost. In popular culture, the stories of the Geechee peoples have been featured in movies such as Daughters of the Dust, by director Julie Dash, and Conrack, starring Jon Voight.
Luminary figures with their heritage in the Gullah Geechee culture are numerous. Click on the image below to see larger.
Dr. Emory Campbell is a community leader among the Gullah people and began his career in the 1970s as an activist working to implement public health measures in impoverished rural areas. Driven by the threat of out-of-control resort development on the Sea Islands, Dr. Campbell has worked to preserve traditional Gullah communities, their language, and customs. As the Executive Director of Penn Center, Inc. on St. Helena Island in South Carolina, Dr. Campbell leads an international movement to raise awareness of the uniquely rich African cultural heritage of the Geechee people.
Dr. Campbell was also a member of a committee that translated the New Testament into the Gullah language. De Nyew Testament took 26 years to produce and was released to the public in 2005. Annotated pages from the publication can be seen here.
Now Jedus been bon een Betlem town, een Judea, jurin de same time wen Herod been king. Atta Jedus been bon, some wise man dem dat study bout de staa dem come ta Jerusalem fom weh dey been een de east.
Therefore when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of king Herod, lo! astronomers, came from the east to Jerusalem, and said, Where is he, that is born [the] king of Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and we have come to worship him.
If you enjoyed this post, you might also be interested in reading about common English words inherited from Native American languages, Spanish, and French!
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