GULLAH GEECHEE CULTURAL HERITAGE CORRIDOR NATIONAL HERITAGE AREA PLANS FOR NEW YEAR’S EVE WATCH NIGHT AND EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION CELEBRATIONS
For the fourth year, the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission will host an afternoon traditional Watch Night service titled “Freedom’s Eve: A Gullah Geechee Watch Night Emancipation Day Celebration” located at the historic Morris Brown AME Church, 13 Morris Street, Charleston, SC at 12:00 p.m. on December 31st, 2021. This event is a part of the Commission’s larger initiative to partner with Gullah Geechee communities in Charleston and across North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida to raise awareness about a celebration that is almost 160 years old: the New Years Eve & Watch Night service commemorating the date of January 1, 1863 when enslaved people in the Lowcountry, the Sea Islands and throughout the United States emerged from bondage as a result of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. On December 31, 1862, Gullah Geechee people gathered in praise houses and churches to await a new year. One that would mark the beginning of the end of slavery when the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1. This date was remembered as Freedoms Eve and many churches across the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor still use the New Year’s Eve Watch Night Service to remember that historic date.
To commemorate the historic tradition, this year’s hybrid event will showcase the rich, cultural heritage of the Gullah Geechee people with performances from acclaimed musicians Voices of Gullah Singers, Teli Shabu & The Magic of African Rhythm, Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters, storyteller Dontavius Williams, Melba Ayco and Northwestern Tap Connection, and liturgical dancer Diamin Hill. Hosted by Gullah preservationists Geechee Experience and Dr. Jessica Berry.
Sponsored by the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor National Heritage Area, in partnership with the International African American Museum, Emancipation Proclamation Association of Greater Charleston, and Magnolia Plantation & Gardens.
The John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act was signed into law on March 12, 2019, and outlined the creation of the Reconstruction Era National Historic Network. This network, managed by Reconstruction Era National Historical Park, includes sites and programs that are affiliated with the Reconstruction Era, but not necessarily managed by the National Park Service. The network facilitates and reviews Reconstruction Era related research and collaboration with affiliated sites and programs through agreements and partnerships. This network is nationwide and works to provide opportunities for visitors to connect to the stories of Reconstruction.
Join Park Ranger Chris Barr for a virtual tour and learn about the integration of newly freed African Americans into social society after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in Beaufort County, SC
Find out more about the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission here.
The Charles Joyner Institute for Gullah and African Diaspora Studies examines the historical migration and scattering of African populations to local geographical areas and the subsequent evolution of blended cultures, specifically Gullah. CCU’s location at the northern tip of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor puts it in a unique position for diaspora study and research. The work of the institute provides students with experiential learning opportunities, both at home and abroad, that center on interconnections among local, national, and global peoples and their societies. The Institute is also a catalyst for community involvement.
South Carolina ETV (SCETV) will be premiering a new hour-long documentary film on October 1 entitled “Gullah Roots.” Follow members of the South Carolina, Florida and Georgia Gullah Geechee community as they experience a homecoming in Sierra Leone. You can also join community members to celebrate the debut of this project at a film screening event on Tuesday, Oct. 6 at 7 p.m. at the Highway 21 Drive-In, located at 55 Parker Drive in Beaufort, S.C. The event is open to the public. Additional information and a registration link can be found on Eventbrite.
The trip to Sierra Leone took place last winter and included Gullah Geechee scholars, performers and cultural ambassadors, such as Anita Singleton Prather, also known as Aunt Pearlie Sue of the Gullah Kinfolk, and Ron and Natalie Daise, as well as Victoria Smalls, a commissioner of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor. While touring the country, members of the group noted powerful connections between Sierra Leone and the Gullah Geechee people.
In addition to its premiere on Oct. 1, Gullah Roots will also be airing on Sunday, Oct. 4 at 2 p.m. on ETV World and Monday, Oct. 5 at 8 p.m. on the South Carolina Channel.