HIlton Head Island is more than the resort community we all love. It is important to understand the history of the Gullah people - African slaves who were shipped across the Atlantic from West Africa to work the cotton plantations of the South. While plantation owners built their fortunes upon slave labor, the slaves were able to create something of their own -- the unique culture that is now known as Gullah. With that culture came a thriving mix of language, folktales and superstition, a mix that has shaped generations of families who live on Hilton Head Island and in the Lowcountry today.
On Hilton Head Island one can also visit Mitchelville - the first freed Negro township; Zion Chapel of Ease - Hilton Head's oldest cemetery; Queen Chapel AME Church - established in 1860 as a "praise house" for Pope Plantation slaves and this can all be done by taking the Gullah Heritage Trail Tour.
Very important to the culture is the Gullah language which is kept alive through vivid storytelling in the native tongue, a dialect that appears to be a combination of a variety of African languages and English. Forbidden by plantation owners to speak their native tongue, the African slaves developed the dialect out of necessity by incorporating broken English with African words. The Gullah dialect survives today as a "creolized" version of English. Through passionate prayers, sermons and tales, the Gullah remember their past and look toward the future preservation of their culture; a culture distinguished by the crafts of sweet grass basket weaving, boat building and quilting.