Explore the culture of an enduring people of the southern coast this Black History Month

Writer Wilbur Cross tells the little-known story of an enduring people and their heritage in a paperback edition of GULLAH CULTURE IN AMERICA. Learn about their influence over South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida during Black History Month.
Jan. 6, 2012 - PRLog -- Historian Joseph Opala knew he had made a remarkable discovery. It was 2004, some 15 years after he had helped to organize the first Gullah Homecoming based on links he had found between Gullah people in the United States and their ancestors in Sierra Leone. But now, Opala could trace an unbroken trail of documents for an African American family beginning with Priscilla, a 10-year-old girl brought to America from Sierra Leone 250 years ago, and ending with her direct descendant, Charleston resident Thomalind Martin Polite.

“Priscilla’s Homecoming,” Polite’s subsequent journey to Sierra Leone, is where writer Wilbur Cross begins GULLAH CULTURE IN AMERICA. Now available in paperback, GULLAH CULTURE IN AMERICA presents an extensive record of the fascinating, yet too often overlooked, enclaves of African American descendants of slaves in South Carolina and Georgia. Though these communities existed long before the American Revolution, they remained largely hidden until the 1860s, when missionaries from Philadelphia founded Penn School to help freed slaves learn to read and write. Cross describes in great detail how, due to this long-term isolation, the Gullah were able to preserve the ancient traditions of their African ancestors.

Originally published by Praeger in 2007, GULLAH CULTURE IN AMERICA provides not only a detailed history of the Gullah but also a context for understanding what it means to “grow up Gullah.” In 12 colorful, engaging chapters, Cross introduces readers to all aspects of Gullah culture, including language, religion, food, music, and dance. He also provides insight into issues facing the more than 300,000 members of Gullah communities today, including the double-edged effects of modernization and assimilation and the difficulties and triumphs of efforts to preserve the culture in the present day.

Having lived on Hilton Head Island for 22 years, Cross has had the opportunity to learn firsthand about his Gullah neighbors. He incorporates his many interviews with members of the Gullah community into his text, frequently letting them tell the story of their people in their own words.

Wilbur Cross is the author or coauthor of more than 40 books on a wide range of subjects. He received a degree from Yale University and after almost four years of combat service in the Pacific during World War II started his career as a copywriter in a New York City advertising firm. He was an editor at Time Inc. for 10 years and is a member of the Authors Guild and the Time/Life Alumni Society. He lives on Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Media angles for reporters and editors in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida:
1. Gullah Homecomings and the African Connection
In GULLAH CULTURE IN AMERICA , Wilbur Cross explains how researchers came to understand the connection between the Gullah and their African ancestors, from the discovery that the origin of the Gullah people in coastal South Carolina and Georgia could be traced to specific locations in Africa, to the late 1980s, when historian Joseph Opala began organizing the first of three “Gullah Homecomings” to Sierra Leone. Read more about Opala and his research here: http://yale.edu/glc/gullah/index.htm.

2. Effects of Integration and Modernization
For years, Gullah communities were able to preserve their language and traditions because of their relative isolation from other groups. In the last several decades, however, outsiders have descended upon what were once predominately Gullah lands. With them have arrived commercial sites, many of them poorly planned and executed by developers who have profit in mind, rather than any thought of historic preservation. Cross warns against this imprudent use of forests and fields, emphasizing respect for the land and the longstanding culture that has been threatened.

3. Festivals and Celebrations
February – Gullah Celebration, Hilton Head Island, S.C.
Coinciding with Black History Month is the month-long Gullah Celebration, which includes De Aarts Ob We People XII Art Show & Sale, National Freedom Day Parade and Program, and the Gullah Film Fest Series. Read more at http://www.gullahcelebration.com/.

May – The Original Gullah Festival, Beaufort, S.C.
One of the largest Gullah celebrations, this family-oriented event is three days of food, music, educational forums, and dances. See more information at http://www.gullahfestival.org/.

June – Sweet Grass Cultural Arts Festival, Charleston, S.C.
This day-long event is aimed at preserving the heritage of the Gullah/Geechee culture and language, as well as the sweetgrass natural habitats. Read more at http://www.sweetgrassfestival.org/.

August – Sea Islands Black Heritage Festival, St. Simons Island, Ga.
This is a celebration of African American heritage, art, music, and poetry. Read more at http://www.seaislandsblackheritagefestival.com/home.html.

October – Cultural Day Festival, Sapelo Island, Ga.
This is a celebration of the legacy of the Geechee-Gullah people of Sapelo Island. Read more at http://www.sapeloislandgeorgia.org/culturalday/index.html.

November – Heritage Days, St. Helena Island, S.C.
This event showcases the heritage of the Gullah people and explores the Gullah connection at the historic Penn Center. Read more at http://www.penncenter.com/pchd.html?q1Category=Vacations&q1PageName=Feb%20GGulla%20Salute.

4. Wilbur Cross’s Expertise and Experience in Gullah Culture
GULLAH CULTURE IN AMERICA is more than an aggregation of Cross’s research of scholarly works. Having lived on Hilton Head Island for 22 years, Cross has immersed himself in the study of Gullah culture under the guidance of Dr. Emory Shaw Campbell. The book contains a number of interviews with outstanding leaders in the Gullah community conducted by the author and others concerned about preserving this unique culture.

To view the complete press kit, go to http://www.blairpub.com/mediakits/wilburcross.php.

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John F. Blair, Publisher, is an independent, family-owned company that publishes book on the southeastern United States and is based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Learn more at www.blairpub.com.
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Tags:Gullah, Black History Month, African American, Black, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Sea Islands, Island Culture
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