Robert Stephens and Mary Ellen Junda, both professors of music at the University of Connecticut, will hold a workshop next summer in Savannah, Georgia, to instruct about 80 elementary and secondary school teachers on how to educate their students about the culture and traditions of the Gullah people. The workshop is supported by a $180,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Located on the coast and sea islands of South Carolina and Georgia, the Gullah community is made up of the descendents of slaves who were brought to the New World to work on low-country rice plantations. Their language is based on English but has many influences from western Africa. Their geographic isolation has preserved their music, folklore, art, cuisine, and culture from outside influences.
“Strong community life and geographical isolation contributed to the Gullahs’ ability to continue a cultural tradition and preserve more of their African heritage than other African-American groups in the United States,” says Professor Stephens. “As a result, the history, stories, beliefs, and creative expressions of the Gullah are critical antecedents to African-American culture and the broader American mosaic, as we know it today.”
Here is a video showing a brief snippet of Gullah language and music.