Man enlightens tourists on Gullah culture in Charleston

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Thousands of tourists flock to Charleston every year. Among many reasons people come to this very city is for its history.

Since 1985, Alphonso Brown has been enlightening tourists and residents alike about Charleston's rich black history.

"There was a time that you could come to Charleston and hear nothing about blacks in Charleston," Brown says."I'm the only tour guide that really explores the eastside of Charleston called the underground railroad area where a lot of black history lies."
Although Brown was born into the Gullah culture, he said before starting his tour company he researched the area's history extensively.

"The info was all over the place," Brown says."It was like hitting a vein of gold. I pulled it out and developed my route and the rest was history."

Gullah is an English-based creolized language that originally evolved over time and was spoken by slaves at that time. Brown says it became recognized as a language in 1939. A more watered down version of it is still spoken today.

"Beaufort, Charleston form the nucleus of the Gullah speaking base," Brown says."Whenever you see a plantation you will see Gullah. What my grandmother and grandfather know I knew cause they talked to me and I asked questions."

The Gullah culture is a rich part of Charleston's history and traditions like basket sewing are touched on during the tour.

"The baskets are priced according to the price and can range from $100 to $1000," Brown says. "The men were the original makers of the baskets"

The one and a half hour journey meanders though the historic streets of downtown by bus. Showing the iron work of local greats like Phillip Simmons and people like Richard Edward DeReef, the wealthiest free black in the early 1900's.

Brown says,"Deruff did not have to pay the free black man's tax in those days, you pay tax. I said that on one tour and a lady got upset and I told her we all have to pay tax to be free. If you don't, you go to jail."

Brown says he loves to weave historical facts and information on his tours that leaves you wanting to learn more,"Like when I tell them Calhoun is the great, great, great uncle of Lena Horne or how George Washington used his slaves teeth to make his false teeth."

Copyright WCSC 2011. All rights reserved.