By Jay Buckley
The Athenaeum Press at Coastal Carolina University works on projects on a regional level that are led by students. While not all of their projects are focused solely in South Carolina, they are all developed, designed, and published out of CCU. The projects that are based in South Carolina have a mission to educate people on a local, regional, and national level on the history and culture of the area. One of these projects based out of South Carolina is “Gullah: The Voice of an Island.” From this project came the idea to fight to preserve the island and all its rich history and culture.
The project “Gullah: The Voice of an Island,” began as a collaboration between two music professors, Matt White from CCU and Eric Crawford from Norfolk State University. It was meant to preserve the spiritual songs sung in praise houses on a CD. The next focus of the project was to preserve the culture and heritage of the Gullah community.
The Gullah people have lived along the eastern coast stretching from South Carolina down to Florida since the early 1800s when they were first brought from the western coast of Africa to be sold into slavery. In Georgetown County, South Carolina there is an island called Sandy Island which is inhabited by the descendants of the people within that community. The forty-square mile of former rice plantation is located between the Pee Dee and Waccamaw River and is only accessible by boat.
In 1996, the state stepped in to protect the island from developers trying to build a bridge to haul timber from the island. The state was successful and guaranteed it to be untouched by development. This spring, Alli Crandell from the Athenaeum Press teamed up with Eric Crawford to apply for the Civil Rights Grant from the National Parks service to preserve Sandy Island. They are using the money from the grant to renovate the schoolhouse that was built in 1932. Their plan is to turn it into a visitor center for people to learn more about Sandy Island’s history and the Gullah community who still lives there today.
It is important to preserve this island because not only is there so much history from it being a former rice plantation, but there are people who are still living on the island today. Without land, you have no culture.
Below are images of the cultural center sign. The first is from 2012 and the second is from the spring of 2017. A clear example of what happens without preservation.