For hundreds of years, the Gullah people have lived on the coast of South Carolina. The descendants of enslaved Africans who worked these lands have managed to preserve much of its culture, language, food history and other West African traditions—like storytelling and sweetgrass weaving—and now, they’re sharing these things with the world.
Historic Sites, Museums & Galleries
Once occupied by William Aiken Jr., a former Governor of South Carolina, the Aiken-Rhett House in Charleston is a historic home and museum that exists just as it did when the Aiken family lived there. In the interest of preservation, the property was left intact, including the Aiken-Rhett slave quarters, where the original furnishings, floors and paint are as they were in the 1850s.
With nine historic slave cabins built between 1790 and 1810, Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens in Mount Pleasant features a Black History in America exhibit that allows visitors to follow the journey of enslaved Africans from their arrival in America into modern times.
Founded in 1865 on St. Helena Island, the Penn Center served as a place for the Gullah community’s development—first as a school, then as a training center for midwives, and later, a safe gathering place for civil rights activists working to push America towards equality. Today, the 50-acre property is designated a National Historic Landmark District, and it is devoted to promoting and preserving the history and culture of the sea islands.
The Gullah Museum of Hilton Head Island is dedicated to maintaining Gullah customs, traditions, language, stories, songs and structures. Also on Hilton Head Island, the Coastal Discovery Museum seamlessly intertwines natural and cultural histories, telling the story of the area’s coastal waterways and the Gullah’s presence in them. The Gullah Museum in Georgetown offers presentations and demonstrations of traditional Gullah and Lowcountry crafts.
Arts and crafts are central to the Gullah identity and several galleries along the coast are dedicated to helping visitors understand the culture’s aesthetics. Established in 1977, LyBensons Gallery & Studio in Beaufort specializes in antiques, rare collectibles and original artwork that illustrate the link between West African, Gullah and African American life. Located in Charleston, Gallery Chuma features work by emerging artists as well as internationally renowned masters of the Gullah genre, like painters Jonathan Green and John W. Jones. The Sonja Griffin Evans Gallery highlights the artistry of the Beaufort-born artist and the influences Gullah folkways have had on her life’s work.
The International African American Museum in Charleston features an impressive collection of historical artifacts, works of art and thought-provoking films highlighting the resilience, struggles, achievements and triumphs of African Americans and their pivotal roles in shaping American history and society.