Thursday, March 31, 2011

New book examines Gullah culture on Cainhoy Peninsula

A promising new book has been published on the history of Gullah culture on the Cainhoy peninsula. I've not yet read the book but hope to learn if it contains any reporting on the earliest public schools opened in that region during and following the Civil War.

Gullah slaves on the Sea Islands, to the south of Charleston and off Beaufort's waterfront, became free when plantation owners fled in 1861, and the first free schools were established there for black children on St. Helena Island.

Copies of the book were distributed this weekend to Gullah descendents.

Author Herb Frazier signs a copy of his book “Behind God’s Back” for Thomas Venning Jr. as Richard Hendry, vice president for programming at the Coastal Community Foundation, looks on. About 200 signed books were distributed at the Keith School Museum Saturday in Cainhoy.

About 200 free, autographed copies of Herb Frazier's book were distributed Saturday to Gullah descendants from Cainhoy, Wando, Huger, Daniel Island and St. Thomas Island. The work has been a catalyst for family discussions of days gone by.

"I really applaud his effort," said Gail Carson of Huger. The book opened a door for Carson to explore parts of her parents' lives that she didn't know much about. "I think it created a wonderful opportunity for my parents to talk about things that we don't always talk about," Carson said.

She was surprised to learn in living-room discussions of the book that her father was so knowledgeable about the political system of the 1940s, '50s and '60s. She sent copies of the book to relatives in Georgia and Pennsylvania.

"Behind God's Back," a five-year project, began as a 75-page historical sketch of the Gullah people of the Cainhoy peninsula and their struggles from the time of Emancipation through the Depression and into the mid-20th century.

Frazier said he realized after initial research and interviews that the story was much richer than anticipated and better suited for a book. His subjects have thanked him for taking the time to tell their story. "It gives them a great sense of pride," he said.

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