BlackFacts Details


The Gullah are the descendants of enslaved Africans from various people who lived in the Lowcountry regions of the U.S. states of Georgia and South Carolina, in the area of both the coastal plain and the Sea Islands. They developed a creole ethnicity and language that is distinctive among African Americans.

Historically, the Gullah region extended from the Cape Fear area on North Carolinas coast south to the vicinity of Jacksonville on Floridas coast. Today the Gullah area is confined to the Georgia and South Carolina Lowcountry. The Gullah people and their language are also called Geechee, which may be derived from the name of the Ogeechee River near Savannah, Georgia.[1] Gullah is a term that was originally used to designate the creole dialect of English spoken by Gullah and Geechee people. Over time, its speakers have used this term to formally refer to their creole language and distinctive ethnic identity as a people. The Georgia communities are distinguished by identifying as either Freshwater Geechee or Saltwater Geechee, depending on whether they live on the mainland or the Sea Islands.[2] [3] [4] [5]

Because of a period of relative isolation from whites while working on large plantations in rural areas, the Africans, drawn from a variety of Central and West African tribes, developed a creole culture that has preserved much of their African linguistic and cultural heritage from various peoples; in addition, they absorbed new influences from the region. The Gullah people speak an English-based creole language containing many African loanwords and influenced by African languages in grammar and sentence structure. Sometimes referred to as Sea Island Creole by linguists and scholars, the Gullah language is especially related to and almost identical to Bahamian Creole. There are also ties to Barbadian Creole, Belizean Creole, Jamaican Patois and the Krio language of West Africa.