Communities share goals as Gullah Geechee Heritage Project takes shape

The $110,000 of funding, partially from the National Parks, is for the preservation and documentation of Gullah Geechee communities.
Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 4:18 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 15, 2023 at 4:26 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - After eight community meetings, historic African-American settlement communities are preparing their applications to earn funding from the Gullah Geechee Heritage Project Grant.

The $110,000 of funding, partially from the National Parks, is for the preservation and documentation of Gullah Geechee communities. From Ten Mile and Scanlonville in Mount Pleasant, to Ferguson and Beefield on James Island, the communities make up a large part of the Lowcountry.

However, after discrepancies in cataloging, much of their history has not been marked and maintained.

Edward Lee, the President of the East Cooper Civic Club and generational Scanlonville resident says documenting the history is a huge part of learning where people come from and understanding which direction to go next.

“You don’t want a oneone-sided sided story. Right? History should be fair to everybody. So in many cases, this story has been told from one perspective, we want to get both perspectives in the history books, so folks will realize what’s going on now and how, again, how the history has affected us now” Lee says.

In Scanlonville, there are multiple ongoing projects the community is working on in terms of recording their history. One is a history park at the corner of Mathis Ferry and Fifth Avenue that the community recently picked a final design for and hopes to begin building soon. Lee says a constant place of maintenance and historic importance across Historic African-American communities are the cemeteries. In Scanlonville, the cemetery sits on the Molassas Creek waterfront along 4th Avenue.

“The project that we picked is the cemetery getting on the National Register, we already had a recommendation to be in the National Register. But at that time, when we went and tried to get it on the register, we didn’t own the property. So, you have to own the property recognized on national register, but now we own the property,” Lee says.

His community looks forward to submitting their application by the October deadline and seeing progress on designating the historic cemetery.

Barbara Goss Brown live in the Ferguson Community on James Island. She says their island has 16 African-American cemeteries that they hope to designate and maintain as well. Their application will also focus on some of those cemetery properties.

Project lead Chloe Stuber at the Charleston Department of Planning, Preservation and Sustainability says she is also looking forward to getting the applications. Over the course of eight community meetings about the Gullah Geechee Historic Preservation Project, she says around 100 people came out.

“We will be seeking a consultant team that will work directly with communities so the communities will be their primary clients, even though we’ll be you know, managing those contracts. And so that is the next step and also to aid us and sort of scoping out what the work will be,” Stuber says.

She explains how important this project is in getting the ball rolling on support for the historic communities to establish their stories. She hopes this grant is the first of many, and similar projects will follow.