Collection Description

Culture Name

Sea Islanders

Culture Description

Sea Islanders are Gullah-speaking people who live on the coast and sea islands of Georgia and South Carolina. They are descendents of slaves first brought to the islands in the 17th Century to cultivate indigo and latter cotton. Isolated from the mainland, the Sea Islanders developed a distinct culture, which remained largely intact until the first bridges were built in the 1920s. The focus of research has been on language, folk songs and oral history.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


North America --Regional and Ethnic Cultures


United States

OWC Code


Number of Documents


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Number of Pages


Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF Collection of Ethnography and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.

There are 14 documents in the Sea Islander collection, four were published between 1926 and 1942, and the rest after 1973. The major sites include Johns, Wadmalaw, and St. Helena's Islands, South Carolina and St. Simon's Island, Georgia. The major focus of studies are folklore and folksongs (Jones-Jackson 1987, no. 2; Parrish 1942, no. 9; Johnson, G. B. 1930, no. 10), oral histories (Georgia Writer's Project 1986, no. 1; Creel 1988, no. 3; Carawan 1989, no. 4), and language (Nichols 1976, no. 5; Jones-Jackson 1978, no. 7; Smith, R. 1926, no. 8.) G. G. Johnson provides an economic and cultural history of South Carolina's St. Helena's Island and surrounding region, and Guthrie (1996, no. 13) examines socialization and identity on the island. Other topics covered in the collection include childrearing (Smith, F. 1973, no. 6), religious practices (Creel 1990, no. 12), and African root medicine and identity (Trott 2003, no. 14.) For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in the collection, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

This culture summary is based on the article, "Sea Islanders," by Mary H. Moran in James W. Dow and Robert Van Kemper (Vol. Eds.), Encyclopedia of World Cultures, Vol. 8. 1995. Middle America and Caribbean, Boston, Mass.: G. K. Hall & Co. Ian Skoggard wrote the Synopsis and John Beierle, the indexing notes in May, 2005.

hags - witch - use SORCERY (754)

hags - disembodied spirit - use ANIMISM (774)

Moving Star Hall - use PUBLIC STRUCTURES (344)


Moving Star Society - use INSURANCE (456)

Moving Star Society - use MORTUARY SPECIALISTS (767)

Moving Star Society - use CONGREGATIONS (794)


Religious "shouts" - use MUSIC (533)


Religious "shouts" - use ORGANIZED CEREMONIAL (796)

root doctor - use MEDICAL PERSONNEL (759)

Sea Island Comprehensive Health Care Corporation - PHILANTHROPIC FOUNDATIONS (741)

Septima Clark/Esau Jenkins - use LIFE HISTORY MATERIALS (159)

Septima Clark/Esau Jenkins - TEACHERS (875)

The Progressive Club - a consumer's cooperative - use COOPERATIVE ORGANIZATION (474)

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