This year marks the 20th Anniversary of Gullah Heritage Trail tours and February is Gullah Celebration month! We are celebrating by sharing our company’s history and our goals for the future.
Gullah Heritage Trail Tours was founded in 1996 by a Hilton Head Island Gullah Family Partnership. This outstanding family has been involved in preserving Gullah cultural heritage, blending Gullah cultural values, in the SC-GA Low Country, for more than 40 years. Based on Hilton Head Island, Gullah Heritage Trail Tours caters to Low Country visitors interested in learning about the history of Gullah Culture.
Gullah people of today are descendants of enslaved Africans from various ethnic groups of west and central Africa who were forced to work on the plantations of coastal South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida. Because of their geographic protection from outsiders and strong sense of family and community, Gullah people maintained a separate Creole language and developed distinct culture patterns, which included more of the African cultural tradition than African-American population in other parts of the United States. People chose to live the isolated Gullah lifestyle with their homes, their families, their language, and their way of life – a slow-paced life among majestic trees, tidal marshes, and dirt roads traversed by ox and mule carts. Thus, within these rural communities, people were able to maintain their language, arts, crafts, religious beliefs, folklore, rituals and food preferences that are distinctly connected to their West African roots. The C&W Connection, which runs Gullah Heritage Trail Tours, was founded by a prominent Gullah family and the initials C&W are from the sir names of Reginald Campbell and Sarah Williams respectively.
The C&W Connection started as an organized family club and was eventually made into an LLC. C&W Connection was first founded to raise funds to take care of Gullah family members, but has since grown to acquire real estate, run Gullah Heritage Trail Tours, and be involved in the community while promoting Gullah culture and values.
The C&W Connection and Gullah Heritage Trail Tours are still run by prominent Gullah families who have been native to the area since the early 1900s. Family members who collaboratively run these Gullah companies are educators of the Gullah culture and are involved in various aspects of the community such as property usage, churches, town councils, taxation and more. Gullah Heritage family members continue to be a firsthand knowledge source of Gullah culture and tradition and encourage the preservation of Gullah cultural values. Gullah families care deeply for the community, and show their support by staying extremely involved. Members of Gullah families continue to sit on the board of a local bank and are involved in cleaning crews to preserve the landscape of Hilton Head Island.
Gullah Heritage Trail Tours focuses on involving youth in Gullah culture as to promote the spread of Gullah values in the future. Gullah traditions have been passed down from family to family and we are always working to continue this tradition. The Gullah/Geechee Corridor also emphasizes youth and is a strong force in continuing Gullah traditions. The Gullah/Geechee Corridor was established and authorized by Congress in the National Heritage Areas Act of 2006. Due to the establishment of the Corridor, Gullah culture has been and will continue to be nationally recognized and protected. In the near future, there will be museums along this Corridor – which runs along the coast from North Carolina to Florida – to display the culture and traditions of the Gullah people.