December 7th, 2012
01:48 PM ET

African slave traditions live on in U.S.

By Adeline Chen and Teo Kermeliotis, CNN

(CNN) - Along the lush sea-islands and the Atlantic coastal plains of the southern East coast of America, a distinctive group of tidewater communities has stuck together throughout the centuries, preserving its African cultural heritage and carving out a lifestyle that is uniquely its own.

The Gullah/Geechee people are direct descendants of West African slaves brought into the United States around the 1700s. They were forced to work in rice paddies, cotton fields and indigo plantations along the South Carolina-Georgia seaboard where the moist climate and fertile land were very similar to their African homelands.

After the abolition of slavery, they settled in remote villages around the coastal swath, where, thanks to their relative isolation, they formed strong communal ties and a unique culture that has endured for centuries.

"The Gullah/Geechee Nation is an extremely tightly knit community," says Chieftess Queen Quet, who was chosen to represent the Gullah/Geechee people in 2000. "It is as tightly knit as a sweet grass basket that's sewn together and as tightly knit as a cast net is sewn together - there's strength in it and that means if you pull on it, you can't just get it to break apart."

soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Karen

    Finally I know my actual ancestors that were brought here 100 years ago. Thank you , CNN , for this information.

    December 21, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jorge

    The Gullah/Geechee community uncannily parallels the Loiza Aldea Afroantillean community of Puerto Rico in dress, general musical morphology, dance, coastal cuisine and dress. about the only difference lies in the fact that Gullah/Geechee English has faint hints of West Indies accentuation, while Loiza Spanish is weighted heavily with the consonant-abbreviated speech of Canary Island and Catalunian colonists.

    December 11, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  3. wjmccartan

    Very cool, and do they have all the trappings of urban Anerica, is it a county, how has climate changed the way they've lived their lives, you said the Gallah/Geechee live on islands, with a two hundred year continuos period of living in one region.

    Very nice and informative articile


    December 10, 2012 at 12:03 am | Report abuse |
  4. F Daniel Gray

    Of the 65 major languages spoken on the "continent" of Africa, which one has been preserved among the Gullah people? For language is everything about preserving a culture for generations. Just ask the Jews about hebrew and yiddish. For even a non practicing Jew is aware of that heritage, and the culture connected to it.

    i suspect the Gullah is more ersatz than an actual deep seated approach. There is more African descended culture visible in, for example, in "Latin American" nations. The principal examples being Cuba, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Haiti. And principally by religious traditions and music (especially rhythm). Where is jazz (jass) today in the US? It happens to be the foundation of ALL popular music. Yet we have the pimping and distorting of that genre, by every "top" entertainer, "black," "white," etc. Just sayin'.

    December 8, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jorge

      You're quite right, so much so that Afroantillean influence is pervasive in ALL aspects of Caribbean and Central American culture, not just food, music and dance. Case in point, my paternal grandfather was half-black, half-Spaniard, yet I have been addressed in Dutch because of my complexion and features while in Curazao. Make no mistake, I do so love my Cuban guaguancó, Jamaican rum and Dominican mangú, though.

      December 12, 2012 at 8:20 am | Report abuse |
  5. 200 TON HAMMER

    Google YAHOODEE and really research it YAHOODEE ????????

    December 8, 2012 at 4:10 am | Report abuse |
  6. open mind

    This story is coming through so elaquently. AMAZING!

    December 8, 2012 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |