"St. Helena Island...Preserving a Culture" Saint Helena Island by jne7299318

Saint Helena Island Travel Guide: 8 reviews and 11 photos

The Gullah Culture

St. Helena Island is located in Beaufort County, South Carolina. During slavery, many of the Africans bought to the colonies arrived by way of Charleston. Because Charleston was the largest slave port in the U. S. it brought in many peoples from several different countries along the Western coast of Africa. As a result, many of the cultures and traditions of the different groups of West Africans became one with European and native American influences. Both the people and the language that resulted from this melding of traditions and cultures are known as Gullah.

Penn Center

In order to get a feel for the Gullah culture and its people a trip to The Penn Center is a must. Located on St Helena Island, this center was founded as the Penn School. It was founded in 1862 with the purpose of educating freed slaves of the Sea Islands at the beginning of the Civil War. Charlotte Forten, a free African and teacher with major ties to Philadelphia was the first Black teacher to work at the Penn School. The grounds now house museum, many of the orginal structures are still standing, and one of the cabins on the site was used by Martin Luther King Jr. as a retreat when he needed to strategize with members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The grounds are also used for family and other group gatherings. Educational seminars, programs, and other cultural events are held at Penn Center throughout the year.

Mr. Middleton

Mr. Middleton is a resident of St. Helena. He volunteers at the Penn School and give tours around the Island. And what a gracious tour guide he is. I spent at least two hours riding around with him in his air conditioned truck and got to see some of the sites on the Island that would have taken me quite some time to find on my own. The Church of Ease and the Fort Freemont Historic Site and Beach were two of the sites that he included in his tour. A stop at a Praise House and the last standing plantation on the island were also included. But most interesting of all was his personal story on finding his birth parents on a trip that he took to Philadelphia in 1956. A published account of his story is available.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:This was a great day trip from Charleston.
  • Cons:Take bug spray. There are lots of mosquitoes and gnats.
  • Last visit to Saint Helena Island: Jun 2007
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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