BY KERRI ANNE RENZULLI ON 08/10/22 AT 6:00 AM EDT
Along the Sea Islands and coastal plains of the Southeast, you’ll find the Gullah Geechee people—descendants of enslaved West Africans forced to work on rice, cotton, and indigo plantations before the Civil War. Living on isolated islands and coastal areas helped the community stick together through the centuries and develop its own unique culture with deep African roots.
What to Do: While the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor stretches 12,000 square miles from Pender County in North Carolina, to St. Johns County, Florida, a good place to start is in Georgetown, home to the Gullah Museum, which explains the Gullah Geechee’s enslaved and post-abolition history and showcases quilts, sweetgrass baskets, dolls and other artforms they’ve crafted. Head south to St. Helena Island to see The Penn Center, one of the nation’s first schools for formerly enslaved people that became a meeting place for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the 1960s. From nearby Hilton Head Island, you can take a two-hour Gullah Heritage Trail bus tour, where Gullah guides show you several historic sites, like Mitchelville, the first self-governed town of freed slaves in the U.S.
Bonus Tip: Planning a fall visit? The Lowcountry Fish & Grits Music Festival on October 1 will showcase music and local cuisine designed to bring awareness to the Gullah Geechee culture and its connection to the African diaspora.