logo Click BACK to leave archives
Archives Teachers
Search Info
White beveled edge

Making a Difference



Slavery in the Colonies and Early African American Culture

<Moderator> Welcome to The Odyssey Chat Room! On October 18 you can chat with
Michael Cottman, Anita Prather, Mark Gibbs, and Donna Harden Cole! Who are these people?
Find out in the October 11 update! (Click here for K-6, click here for 7-12.)

<Moderator> Welcome everybody! Michael will be with us in about twenty minutes. Donna will join us momentarily as she fixes a computer quirk. But Anita is ready to go and has some friends with her!

<Pearlie Sue (Anita Prather)> Heeeeeyyyy, everybody! Welcome to Gullah Land USA -- Beautiful Beaufort South Carolina!

<Aunt Pearlie Sue> Aunt Pearlie Sue is my stage name, so don't let that throw you. =)

<Aunt Pearlie Sue> Today I have with me seven students from Whale Branch Middle School in Beaufort. They are Ameer, Reginald, Titia, Teena, Courtney, Matella and Crystal.

<Aunt Pearlie Sue> I also have one of the teachers, Devon Pickett, helping me with my typing today. She's a lot faster than my two little fingers!

<Aunt Pearlie Sue> We also have an audience with our social studies students here... Ms. Craig, Ms. Wallace, Ms. Singleton, and Ms. Godwin's classes.

<Donna> Hello everyone! I am so honored to be a part of this really cool chat. I hope you all will have as much fun learning today as I expect to have.

<Moderator> Here comes our first question.

<Ruben (Austin, TExas)> Is gullah a language or more like a culture with different ways of life and stuff.

<Aunt Pearlie Sue> Heeeyyyy Donna! I want to get some information on your topic - the African burial in New York.

<Aunt Pearlie Sue> Well, Ruben, it is a culture with a language component. In the South Carolina area specifically, the sea island coast area calls the language "Gullah" but on the Georgia coast it is called "Geechee" or "Geechie".

<Aunt Pearlie Sue> For example, in the Gullah language, there is no "v" sound. The "v" is often switched to a "b" or a "w" sound. An example of that would be the word invitation - it would probably be pronounced "in-WHY-ta-tion"

<Aunt Pearlie Sue> Or also, it could be changed to a "b" sound - like in the word everybody. It would be changed to "ebey-body."

<Aunt Pearlie Sue> One last thing would be the "th" sound would be changed to a "d" sound. Examples this to "dis", that to "dat", there to "dere".

<Moderator> We have two similar questions we'll take at the same time now:

<Victoria (Orlando, FL)> What is Gullah and where can my students hear Gullah being spoken?

<Max (KC,KS)> How different is gullah from english? Like how do you say something in gullah?

<Aunt Pearlie SUe> Victoria, Gullah is still being spoken in some areas of coastal South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina, and northern Florida. Also, there are Gullah speaking people in parts of Texas, Oklahoma, and Mexico.

<Aunt Pearlie Sue> Max, depending upon which part - where you're hearing Gullah - it can sound very similar to Cajun, or Jamaican accents with English words. In other parts, it sounds like a totally different African language.

<Aunt Pearlie Sue> If you would like to hear actual speakers - since you can't hear my voice on the Internet!) you may order "Tales from the Land of Gullah" by calling 1-800-289-0758.

<Sarah (Naperville, IL)> Do kids like talking in gullah?

<Aunt Pearlie Sue> I love y'all from Whale Branch!

<Aunt Pearlie Sue> I'd like some of the students from Whale Branch answer that!

<matella> Sure kids love talking Gullah, I know I do.

<Ameer> we love talking in gullah it helps us learn about our past.

<Courtney> Talking in Gullah is fun because it sounds because you dont have to worry about having to talk so proper.

<Teena> Sarah, In some schools many students don't even know what Gullah is, but I wil tell you one thing,to me I enjoy talking Gullah.

<Matella> Sarah would you someday like to learn to speak gullah and learn about the gullah history?

<Moderator> We've got a question for Donna now.

<Crystal> Gullah is fun because the words just ease right out of your mouth.

If I went to the Burial Ground, what would I see? Is there anything that would surprise me?

<Donna> If you went to the African Burial Ground today, you would see only a small remnant (or piece) of what was a part of the original burial ground used from 1712-1794. The original area was about 5-6 acres or 5-6 football fields! The area that has been landmarked is only about a half city block (1/2 an acre) that's been grassed over and fenced. There are two large signs that describe a little about the history.

<reginald> gullah is very popular down here

<Donna> You might be surprised to see so many huge office buildings in an area that historically was about 1 mile outside from the rest of the city. At that time (1700's) New York City ended at Wall Street which is only at the tip of Manhattan today!

<Marco (Amherst massachusetts)> Are there other places like the African Burial Ground in other cities?

<Donna> Well Marco, Since the recovery of the New York African Burial Ground there has been several different sights to crop up throughout the US regarding possible African burial sites. For example, There was such a site found in Dallas, Texas. In fact, there is a PBS documentary entitled: "Feel It In My Bones," which compares the NY site to the Dallas Site.

<Jocko (Naperville, Illinois)> So you can use DNA to figure out where black people in America are from?

<Donna> Also, Marco In Virgina, at the Thomas Jefferson Estate there has been an investigation regarding this African burials. The same can be said of the Andrew Jackson Estate near Colonial Williamsburg.

<Donna> According to Dr. Michael Blakey, physical anthropologist & the scientific director of the ABG, DNA studies can reconstruct family lineages and cultural heritages of the best preserved human remains from the ABG. Dr. Blakey, a professor at Howard University in Washington, D.C. states that this DNA information will also become part of a databank with which living African Americans can trace their ancestral ties to the site and to Africa.

<Donna> Jocko, you probably have noticed that families tend to share a range of physical characteristics and differ from other families. These differences show up in DNA which can be taken from bones, teeth and hair. We will utilize a combination of bone measurements, DNA studies and chemistry to deter the population "affinity" of the people buried in the ABG. They will be compared with populations from Africa, Europe and North America to figure out where they are likely to have originated.

<Moderator> Michael has joined us now and we've already got some questions for him:

<Tanisha (Los Angeles, CALIFORNIA)> I would like to know where Mr. cottman comes from and why he became a journalist?

<moderator> I am originally from Detroit. I live in Washington, D.C. and write for The Washington Post. I became a journalist to write about politics, history and to tell stories that impact our every day lives.

<Andrew (Kansas City, Kansas)> How many people did the slave ship carry? How do you feel about white people knowing they did this kind of thing?

<michael> Also to educate people about different cultures and ethnic backgrounds

<Michael> The slave ship carried about 200-300 African people over two trans-Atlantic voyages. The history of the Henrietta Marie and the subject of the slave trade is an important part of history for blacks and whites, so I'm delighted when I'm lecturing to see many whites in the audience asking questions about the slave trade. It brings us all closer when there are issues we can discuss together, even though this isssue is painful.

<anthony (alexandria virginia)> can i scuba dive to visit the slave ship?

<Michael> I wish you could. It's a protected site for now by a number of national agencies. I am returning to the site next next to excavate the hull of the ship along with several underwater archeaologists and scientists. Perhaps one day the site will be available for recreational purposes but right now, only those researching the ship are allowed to dive it.

<Titia Evans (Seabrook)> Where did the owners get their money to buy slaves at the auction?

<Michael> returning to the site next week

<Michael> The owners were wealthy from the slave trade. Buying and selling African people. Some were also involved in manufacturing weapons for ships. Some made shackles for slave ships. They were all businessmen.

<Jeff (pittsburg!)> was it scary to go down to a slave ship?

<Michael> It was a somewhat eerie experience. We were not sure what to expect. Spending time underwater touching planks of wood that once made up part of the ship was stimulating for a researcher, but also troublesome knowing thast so many people lost their lioves aboard the ship. It was scary as much as it was deeply moving.

<Moderator> well, we have time for one last question. It's for Aunt Pearlie Sue (Anita).

<Michael> actually, not scary as much as blessed to be part of the experience

<David (Washington)> Our class is interested to know if a group called The Sea Island Singers is still performing and travelling. One of our teachers heard them 15 years ago in Georgia.

<Aunt Pearlie Sue> Yes, they are still singing and performing! I don't happen to have a contact number for them, but I do know of a group in South Carolina.

<Aunt Pearlie Sue> The group is the Gullah Kinfolk Singers. Their mission is the preservation of the Gullah culture of the South Carolina Sea Islands in Beaufort South Carolina. They do it through GUllah narrations, storytelling, as well as authentic Gullah spirituals.

<Aunt Pearlie Sue> They have just launched a newly released CD called, "Songs of We Gullah Peoples" which is distributed by Matrix Media. You can order that by calling 1-800-289-0758. They are available for bookings around the world.

<Moderator> That's all the time we have today. Thank you very much to all of you for joining us. A special thanks to Aunt Pearlie Sue, Donna, and Michael for chatting with us today!

<Aunt Pearlie Sue> Anyone interested in learning more about the Gullah culture --- we have two world renowned festivals that we celebrate here in Beaufort. One is during Memorial Day Weekend called "Gullah Festival USA Inc." and the other is always the second weekend in November and is called "Penn School Heritage Day Festival."

<Donna> Thank you for this wonderful chat. It was really cool to see what type of information you all are interested in learning about. Our director, Dr. Sherrill Wilson, who is an urban anthropologist, will be certainly interested in getting any feedback to wish to share with the African Burial Ground Project. I suspect that this type of learning format is making history as we speak (I mean as we write!). If you are interested in getting more information about this historic New York site, please e-mail us at nyabg@worldnet.att.net. To receive an education package to your "snail mail" address to: The Office of Public Education and Interpretation of the African Burial Ground (OPEI) at 6 World Trade Center, U.S. Custom House, Rm 239, NY, NY 10048. The telephone/fax numbers are 212-432-5707 and 212432-5920. Thanks loads and take care. Peace!

<Aunt Pearlie Sue> Everybody, goodbye and "cum an see we dey-yah enn brootiful Beaufort Souse Carolina by de sea"

<Aunt Pearlie Sue> For booking information for Pearlie Sue, contact Matriz Media at 800-289-0758 or write to P.O. Box 20700 Charleston, SC 29413. Thank you!

<Moderator> Our next US Trek chat will be: Native American Responses Through the Mid-1800's Wednesday, November 8, 2000, 11am Eastern, 8am Pacific Participants: TBA Our next World Trek chat is: Chat with teenagers from the Balata Palestinian Refugee Camp Monday, November 6, 2000, 12 noon Eastern, 9:00 am Pacific Goodbye for now!

<Michael> Thank you all, and good luck