Hilton Head Tours: African American History

Photo by Liz Mitchell

African American history tours, museums, ruins and events on Hilton Head

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Hilton Head tours of African American history are the best opportunity to find hidden treasures. The African American culture runs deep in Beaufort County.

It’s referred to as Gullah. The word Gullah is pronounced gull’ uh. It is a culture incorporating the language, customs, music, art, crafts and foodways of African Americans.

Wealthy planters brought a large slave population to this area. Also, slaves who fled from more southern spots toward the Union-occupied territory settled here. Thus, that population increased.  Slaves originated from various regions in Africa. Tribes did not always arrive on the United States coast speaking exactly the same native tongue. Consequently, the slaves communicated with each other creating their own dialect. It became known as Gullah. The word Gullah is possibly a pronunciation derived from the word Angola. Many of the South Carolina slaves originated there. Now the term refers to the entire culture, far more than the language.

Beaufort County showcases the facts and folklore unlike anywhere else. A tour will fascinate anyone interested in history as well as many who are seeking their family’s roots.

Hilton Head Tours Explore Gullah

Begin at Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn. This is the island’s primary museum which is open daily. It encompasses history and a variety of walking and guided tours. Also, shop for a sweetgrass basket. This will be a lifelong reminder of your visit. Many days a native basket weaver will be demonstrating the craft.

Next schedule a tour with Gullah Heritage Trail Tours. It conveniently picks up visitors at the museum. These guides are fourth generation native islanders. Tours include the Mitchelville site. Also, you will visit a Gullah neighborhood.  Next see a beautiful rural church. Freed slaves first worshiped in the 1862 First African Baptist Church.

Also, learn about juke joints where Saturday night revelry abounded. Then visit a praise house where shouts of worship filled the air on Sunday mornings. The Gullah Museum of Hilton Head Island is only open by appointment. The tiny restored house features Gullah life on Hilton Head.

More historic churches throughout the county continue African American worship customs. They will welcome visitors with warm southern hospitality.

If planning a reunion or group visit, schedule authentic Gullah entertainment. Choose storytelling, lecture or drama. Additionally, ask for a Gullah banquet. Meet Aunt Pearlie Sue and her group Gullah Kinfolk. Their professional Gullah Traveling Theater performs nationally.

Hilton Head Tours for Annual Events

Important annual events welcome the public to enjoy a showcase of the culture. Most noteworthy, the Gullah Celebration is scheduled throughout Hilton Head and Bluffton each February for Black History Month. Storytelling, crafts and music accompany an impressive art exhibit and culinary events.

Penn Center hosts Heritage Days annually the second week in November. Especially relevant, Penn was one of the country’s first schools for educating Blacks and is now a museum. Also of importance, it is the only African American landmark district in the country. It is on St. Helena Island just south of Beaufort.  Early African American settlements were predominant throughout this island.

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