Rainbow Row, Charleston SC

Rainbow Row, Charleston, SC.
Image by Ken Lund.
Licensed under Creative Commons.

An Intertwining of Cultures: The Missing Link in The African Diaspora
Amanda McFarlane, 2011

The Caribbean played a vital role in the transference of African traditions to the West, due to the families' prior occupation in the Caribbean before Southern colonization. The transformative events across the Atlantic, to the Caribbean Sea, and finally the Southern Coast of the US are all connected to the birth of the Gullah culture. Each transmission led to an adaptation, influenced by the differing landscapes. By presenting architectural, geographical, cultural, and political similarities between the two regions, this project explores the role of the Caribbean in structuring this unique cultural manifestation in the lowcountry.

Brer Rabitt and the Tar Baby

Br'er Rabbit and the Tar-Baby,
drawing by E.W. Kemble from The Tar-Baby,
by Joel Chandler Harris, 1904.
Image in Public Domain.

Brer Rabbit: Using the Language of the Sea Islands in Written Form
Erika Alvero Koski, 2011

Storytelling is historically an important form of communication on the Sea Islands. Folktale stories, personal stories, musical stories, are all a representation of life, and oral tradition is used to repeat this representation for generations. This project focues on folktales, where the fantastical world becomes an imprint of the real world. The fantasies reflect the life and hardships of the people’s everyday lives, and the dynamic nature of these fantasies reflect the change a culture must undergo. This project takes the story of "Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby", looks at its transformations from its original form, and explores the dynamic nature of the story. It also raises questions regarding the language used to tell folk stories. These questions are critical for the larger debate surrounding Gullah language as a literary form. Is this strictly an aural tradition or should it be captured on page as a form of preservation?

We shall overcome

We Shall Overcome, first separate publication.
Library of Congress.

The Song that Takes Me Home - The Music of the Sea Islands as a Collection of Memories
Tayo Amos, 2011

Gullah music, traditionally performed in Praise houses, with shouts, hand clapping, and feet stomping is rooted in African traditions. Some of the Gullah songs and slave spirituals, as for example "I will overcome", have profoundly influenced songs of the Civil Rights movement. This project explores the uniqueness of Gullah music. By witnessing performances as well as through conversations with performers it tries to understand the meaning of Gullah music both, by looking at the structure of the music itself, as well as the context in which it is performed and for what purpose.

Toogoodoo Road

Intersection at Oakville Community
near Hollywood, SC.
Photo by Robert Samet.

The Land Will Remember: Holding onto Property, Passing on History
Devney Hamilton, 2010

Land and land ownership play an important role in the history of African American communities in the Low Country of South Carolina. Development and tourism act as counter forces and land retention becomes central issue in the civil rights struggle today. Heirs property laws, under which land is being inherited by all the descendants, who then have to agree on its use and future, complicate the picture. Both first and second generation African Americans decide to move back to South Carolina and inhabit the land they own there. This project attempts to unravel a small part of this complex issue and tries to understand what holding on to land means to past and future generations: the memory of the struggle to hold on empowers the next generation to do more than simply hold on.

Esau Jenkins

Esau Jenkins with children.
Photo courtesy of Avery Research Center.

"I am my brother's keeper": The Teachings of Esau Jenkins
Camira Powell, 2010

Kind, committed, visionary, seeker-of-knowledge, fearless - these are just a few words that have been used to describe a man who has uncharacteristically and undeniably changed the lives of all those he came in contact with: Mr. Esau Jenkins, who believed in empowering others so they learned how to empower themselves. Today, his name has become synonymous with Mrs. Septima Clark and their activism during the Civil Rights Movement in galvanizing disenfranchised African-Americans to register to vote in spite of the institutionalized and rampant racism that stood in their way. Over fifty years have passed since the Civil Rights Movement, and the nation has irrefutably changed from what it as once. This project tries to explore Mr. Jenkins' legacy and what it means for youth and education today.

Gullah Geeche
    Heritage Corridor

The Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor.
From National Park Service

More than Living Landmarks: Resources and Values of the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor
Daniel Towns, 2010

The Gullah Geechee National Cultural Heritage Corridor is a unique endeavor to put African American History on the map. It is the first National Heritage area dedicated to African American History. A commission is responsible for the development and implementation of a management plan. Their mission is to make sure a democratic process in which public's input is taken under advisement. The corridor encompasses four states and involves many stakeholders with various concerns. The project seeks to explore how they come together in this effort.

Okra Gumbo

Okra Gumbo. Recipe from Sally Ann Robinson: Gullah Home Cooking the Daufuskie Way, prepared by Alyssa Baldocchi.
Photo by Alyssa Baldocchi.

Gullah/Geechee Culture and Lowcountry Cooking: An Inseparable and Telling Relationship
Alyssa Baldocchi, 2009

It is widely accepted today that Gullah/Geechee people have had an immeasurably large influence on Lowcountry cooking. This project examines cookbooks from the area in order to understand the ways that influence has historically been ignored, romanticized, and ultimately celebrated and by whom. Additionally, it attempts to give the reasons that other aspects of the culture--namely literature in the form of memoir, autobiography, and folklore--so often use cookbooks as their forum.

Caw Caw Interpretive Center

Rice Fields at Caw Caw Interpretive Center, SC.
Photo by Claudia Engel

Presenting History: Understanding Slavery Through the Lowcountry Plantation Tour
Robert Manly, 2009

The tourism of historical places in the South Carolina Lowcountry has emerged over the last century as one of the regions largest industries. This project centers on the ways in which methods like restoration, preservation, and imagination are used to convey the significance of the past and life on an ante-bellum plantation, particularly for enslaved African-Americans. How do these presentations reflect and inform the way we relate to our past? This question is addressed through an analysis of different presentations of the history of slavery at several Lowcountry plantations, from Boone Hall in South Carolina to the Savannah Wildlife refuge in Georgia. This project attempts to shed more light on what about the plantation era is important and relevant to today and how that legacy is best presented.

Hallelujah Singers

The Hallelujah Singers
Photo by gdidena. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Swimming With the Fish: The Dilemma of Preserving Music
Maggie Sachs, 2009

Individuals perform their personal identities, histories, and memories day to day. But how might we analyze this process through a study of the performance of traditional African American music? By looking at how different people connect with music through many and varied embodiments of performance, this project seeks to understand how performances are born through a rehearsed sense of memory, spirituality, and connection to place, which may provide a sense of solidarity for all individuals and groups in some meaningful way. What does performance mean to individuals, and how might their connections to this specific type of performance reveal important notions of self identity, and cultural identity? By juxtaposing the experiences of three performers with sharply different backgrounds -- each one performing traditional African American music -- this project teases out the common ground between them, as well as illuminate the apparent points of difference.

indigo processing

Indigo processing. Detail from a map of St. Stephen's Parish,
Craven County, South Carolina by Henry Mouzon, 1773.
South Carolina Historical Society.

Blue Bonanza: The Short but Dynamic Span of Indigo in South Carolina
Jillesa Gebhardt, 2008

This project begins with the premise that plantation spaces are made by striping native plant life in favor of introducing monocrops. Plants "imported" then are often experiments. Will these plants take off and thrive or will they just prove unlucrative? Focusing on indigo this projects attempts to narrate the biography of a plant without the people.

septima clark with students

Septima Clark teaching at a "Citizenship School,"
South Carolina Sea islands

Deconstructing the Saint: A More Dynamic Portrait of Septima P. Clark
Sasha Novis, 2008

Often portrayed as kind, humble, and gentle yet firm in her morals Septima Clark was determined to fight for African-American education and empowerment throughout her entire, fruitful life. This project seeks to add to representations of Clark as an unattainable hero. Drawing on the Avery Center's archival of Septima Clark's papers, letters, and interviews it attempts to paint a more dynamic and maybe more complex picture of an outstanding historical figure and her interactions with various political leaders.

golf course

Ms. Sharon Cooper Murray giving Gullah performance,
July 2008. Boone Hall Plantation, SC.
Photo by Darius White.

The Role of Education in Cultural Preservation
Darius White, 2008

The importance of South Carolina's history and the preservation of its unique Gullah culture extends far beyond regional interest. Indeed, many scholars argue, that this area is at the heart of African American presence in the US. However, this history is rarely taught in national curricula. Analysing material collected during interviews, plantation visits, online research as well as during part of the Avery Center summer school this project seeks to investigate how this important history is being represented and made relevant for youth.

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