Gullah is the best known name associated with the language and culture of people living on the Sea Island and Low Country areas of South Carolina and Georgia. Gullah refers both to the people and to the language. Gullah the people descend from enslaved people working in the rice plantations common in the antebellum era.
The slaves came from many places in Africa, but primarily from West Africa. The language grew from many inputs, including English and a variety of West African languages. It is also known as Sea Island Creole English. In contemporary usage, Gullah refers to Sea Islanders in South Carolina, and Geechee to those in Georgia.
The region was quite isolated from slavery times until well into the 1900s, facilitating the development of a robust culture. Following the Civil War, many families were able to buy former plantation lands, which the families retained for generations.
In recent decades the Sea Islands have been developed, with land becoming so expensive it has driven out most of the Gullah and Geechee people. Their total population may be as high as 200,000, but with the traditional communities being scattered by development, the continuation of their culture is in doubt.
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