Stories of Change

Voices

Charleston is one of the earliest cities in which the African presence in North America began. While the tortured circumstances of human bondage and enslavement will never be erased, more attention has turned to the valuable retention of African cultural expression. Rather than being seen as laborers with no history or cultural heritage, Africans and their descendants are credited with having shared agricultural, technical, culinary, artistic, and other talents that help define the Lowcountry and the nation.

Not only did African Americans play important roles in creating Colonial era wealth as enslaved people, they also advocated for universal freedoms and rights, and demanded first class citizenship for all through the tumultuous eras of the American Revolution, Civil War, Emancipation and Reconstruction, Jim Crow, the modern Civil Rights movement and beyond. In 2018, the city of Charleston passed a resolution that denounced slavery, acknowledged that the city profited greatly from slave labor, and extended an apology on behalf of the city.

Discover Charleston’s unique African American historical and cultural traditions, past and present. Hear the evolving narratives of those who share their ancestral legacies as evidence of their determination to claim their rightful place in the annals of the region. Through city, sea island, and plantation tours, oral history and musical performances, archival collections and museum exhibits, statues and historical markers, we invite you to explore several centuries of African and African American history.

The stories shared here are a varied blend of personal observations, recollections and perspectives shared by our local contributors, a beautifully complex collection of voices.

These are stories of change.

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Gullah Foodways & Traditions

Gullah food is one of the oldest world traditions being practiced in America today. It is about ancestral ties and American living, adaptability, and creativity. It is rooted in the crops and preparation methods brought here from Africa and further evolved from a history of poverty and learning to “make do”.

Cooking methods were passed down without written documentation.  Gullah cooks today pride themselves on their ability to season and judge quantities simply by experience.

The Africans brought to the Carolina Colony used the similarities between the culinary environments of the Lowcountry and the African West Coast. Consequently, their cuisine is characterized by the consistent use of rice. Vegetables such as yams, peas and beans were introduced to the New World and then cultivated by slaves.

Courtesy of The Charleston Museum, Charleston, South Carolina

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