United States Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina recently announced the Senate passed the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Act. President Bush signed into law this act last week, ending the long legislative process of recognizing the unique mix of African and American influences that flourished on Southern sea islands. The next step in the process will be to appoint 15 members of a commission to oversee the corridor program. The bill’s passage was the culmination of years of work by Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina in the U. S. House of Representatves. It provides a vehicle to identify and protect a culture that is a unique blend of African and European influences brought to America in colonial days and nurtured on the isolated sea islands from southern North Carolina to northern Florida.
The purpose of the Gullah/Geechee Heritage Corridor that runs from Florida all the way to North Carolina is to:
• Recognize the important contributions made to American culture and history by African-Americans known as the Gullah/Geechee who settled in the coastal counties of South Carolina and Georgia.
• Assist state and local governments and public and private entities in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida in interpreting the story of the Gullah/Geechee and preserving Gullah/Geechee folklore, arts, crafts, and music.
• Assist in identifying and preserving sites, historical data, artifacts, and objects associated with the Gullah/Geechee for the benefit and education of the public.
Also passed at the same time, the Southern Campaign of the Revolution Heritage Area Study Act was additionally enacted. The passage of both bills is significant to the state of South Carolina in developing cultural and history based tourism as South Carolina is not only one of the major locations for Gullah/Geechee culture but additionally has over 200 Revolutionary War sites, more than any other state. The state of South Carolina is currently celebrating the 225th Anniversary of most of these battlegrounds. Although the Southern Campaign is considered by many the turning point of the Revolution, no heritage corridor currently exists to commemorate the Southern Campaign.