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Gullah Geechee Kids

Gullah Culture: Book

Gullah People of the Sea Islands 4th - 5th grade classroom project by Lea Blumenfeld The purpose of this unit is to explore with the children the topic of the Gullah people of the Sea Islands off the coasts of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. This unit will examine the history and the culture, particularly the stories and folk arts of the Gullah people, the African origin of these coastal inhabitants, and the connection between the Sea Island people and Pennsylvania. Additionally, it will include the geography, the Gullahs' knowledge of herb and root medicine, the impact of industrialization on the Gullah economy, and the effect of tourism development on the lives of the people. A continuing theme of the unit will demonstrate that even though the Gullahs had been separated from Africa for hundreds of years, there are many examples of African retentions in the culture. The targeted participants will be fourth and fifth graders, but for some of the activities, such as the chants, songs, and stories, the kindergartners through third graders will also be involved.

Geechee culture and language captured in 70-year-old recordings: For more information, contact: Michael Sullivan (912) 681-0336 mikesull@GeorgiaSouthern.edu
June 2, 2005 #05-473
On a warm spring morning on Sapelo Island, Ga., Cornelia Bailey and Benjamin Hall sit on the veranda of the senior center and listen to a recording of the Rev. John Dunham reciting a Brer Rabbit story. The recording is more than 70 years old. Bailey and Hall are helping Georgia Southern University professor Thomas Klein translate and transcribe the recording from the Gullah-Geechee dialect to modern English.
The recording is one of many made in the early 1930s by the first African American linguist, Lorenzo Dow Turner. He traveled the Georgia and South Carolina sea islands and recorded the island residents talking about their families, their traditions and their daily lives. Now Klein is working to bring the recordings up to date and share them with the present-day islanders.
We are finding out about a group of people who have traditionally been under-represented and misrepresented, said Klein. We are learning about the diaspora of the African people on the American continent; we learn about the survival and adaptation skills that people have.
Bailey is a life-long resident of Sapelo Island and a leader in the small Hog Hammock community. I thought it was a great project; no one had done this before, she said. I read Turners book and stopped there. Thomas went beyond that and found out about these audio manuscripts, and no one had done that before.
Occasionally the project will become more than just academic research and hit home with the islanders. One day Bailey found herself listening to her great-great uncle, Shadrack Hall.
I remember him, and to hear his voice describing everything in minute detail, I said, You have to be kidding! Anyone who came to the house, I said, You have to listen to this, she said. I was dragging people in and saying, You have got to listen to this!

 

 

 

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas [is/was] a Gullah speaker.

12/14/00 In Thomas's Own Words NYT

"When I was 16, I was sitting as the only black kid in my class, and I had grown up speaking a kind of a dialect. It's called Geechee. Some people call it Gullah now, and people praise it now. But they used to make fun of us back then. It's not standard English. When I transferred to an all-white school at your age, I was self-conscious, like we all are. It's like if we get pimples at 16, or we grow six inches and we're taller than everybody else, or our feet grow or something; we get self-conscious. And the problem was that I would correct myself midsentence. I was trying to speak standard English. I was thinking in standard English but speaking another language. So I learned that --- I just started developing the habit of listening. And it just got to be --- I didn't ask questions in college or law school. And I found that I could learn better just listening. And if I have a question I could ask it later. For all those reasons, and a few others, I just think that it's more in my nature to listen rather than to ask a bunch of questions. And they get asked anyway. The only reason I could see for asking the questions is to let people know I've got something to ask. That's not a legitimate reason in the Supreme Court of the United States."

Virginia Mixson Geraty: "Along the southeastern coast of the United States there is a narrow strip of land which is known to linguists and dialect geographers as the Gullah Area. This region, which includes the sea islands along the coast, extends roughly from Jacksonville, North Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida, and inland for about one hundred miles. Living in this area are African-American people who are descendants of the tribesmen brought to the New World during the time of the Slave Trade. These people still speak variations of the original creole language known as Gullah."

 

Gullah and Geechee Traditions
The first Gullah residents were brought to the United States and enslaved from many African nations, including Angola. Another myth the Queen Quet dismantled pertains to the way Gullah people speak. Gullah is an authentic language, not merely a dialect as some self-proclaimed experts claim, she said.

Gullah Tales - folktales, listen to the words.

Krio proverbs by Peter C. Andersen

Proverbs from the Gullah Creole Language

Glossary of Gullah Words

Gullah Music fun for kids to play and here

Bob-A-Needle
"
Bob-a-needle" is a traditional African American game that children play while singing.

Example #1
Georgia Gullah culture traditional African American children's game song; from Bessie Jones & Bess Lomax Hawes's book Step It Down: Games, Plays, Songs & Stories from the Afro-American Heritage {University of Georgia Press, 1972, pps. 163-164}

Note: parenthesis represent lines sung by group

Bob-a-needle
{Bob-a-needle is a running,}

Bob-a-needle
{Bob-a-needle is a running,}

Better run, bob-a-needle
{Bob-a-needle is a running,}

Better hustle, bob-a-needle
{Bob-a-needle is a running,}

I want bob-a-needle
{Bob-a-needle is a running,}

Want to find bob-a-needle
{Bob-a-needle is a running,}

Going to catch bob-a-needl
{Bob-a-needle is a running,}

Turn around, bob-a-needle
{Bob-a-needle is a running,}

Oh bob, bob-a-needle
{Bob-a-needle is a running,}

MP3


Step It Down Commentary:

"Bob-A-Needle" {bobbin needle?} is for purposes of this game, a pen, a jackknife, or a small stick of wood that can be passed rapidly from hand to hand. All the players but one stand in a tight circle, shoulder to shoulder, holding their hands behind their backs. The extra player stands in the center of the ring [circle]; she closes her eyes and hold the bob-a-needle high over her head in one hand. One of the ring players silently creeps up and takes the bob-a-needle from her hand and puts it behind his own back. The center player then opens her eyes and begins to sing the lead line of the song; the players in the circle sing the refrain...
The lead singer's lines are extemporaneous and can be sung in any order...During the singing, the players in the ring [forming the circle] from hand to hand, trying to move as little as possible in order not to make its location obvious. Bob-a-needle may travel clockwise or counterclockwise, and the players may reverse directions at will. The center player meanwhile reaches around the waist and feels the hands of each ring player in turn; she too may go in either direction, but she may not skip players nor run back and forth across the ring. When the center player reverses the direction of her search, she must signal this with the lead line, "Turn, bob-a-needle!"
This game does not end when someone is caught holding the elusive bob-a-needle. Like most of Mrs [Bessie] Jones' games [from the Georgia Sea Isle Gullah tradition] that involve 'losing', the person simply pays a forfeit and/or takes over the center role so that can begin again. When the players tire, the accumulated forfeits are redeemed by the owners in a new sequence of play."

1964 Chubby Checker, who is best known for his Twist songs, recorded a R&B version of the African American children's game "bob-a-needle". Performer Chubby Checker
Title Hey Bobba Needle
Lyric text This is a sad story about a girl named Mary Mac
And her wondering lover Bob Needle

Oh! Softly
I can hear her callin'
Hey Bobba Needle - Bobba Needle - Bobba Needle
Hey Bobba Needle - Bobba Needle - Bobba Needle
Hey Bobba Needle - Bobba Needle - Bobba Needle
Hey Bobba Needle - Bobba Needle - Bobba Needle
Hey Bob
Hey Bob
Mary Mac Mac Mac
All dressed in black black black
Don't cha know I'm tryin' tryin' tryin'
Just to come on back back back
'Cause I took a plane plane plane
But there was some rain rain rain
And there was no flyin' flyin' flyin'
So I took a train train train
Oh Mary Mac Mac Mac
It went off the track track track
Can't you see I'm dyin' dyin' dyin'
Just to come on back back back
Oh! Softly
I can hear you callin'
Hey Bobba Needle - Bobba Needle - Bobba Needle
Hey Bobba Needle - Bobba Needle - Bobba Needle
Hey Bobba Needle - Bobba Needle - Bobba Needle
Hey Bobba Needle - Bobba Needle - Bobba Needle
Hey Bob
Hey Bob

Well I took a boat boat boat
But it wouldn't float float float
So I kept on a puffin puffin puffin
That was all she wrote wrote wrote
So I must wear my cross cross cross
And I bought a horse horse horse
But it just keeps runnin' runnin' runnin'
All around the track track track
Baby I ain't lyin' lyin' lyin'
Can't you see that I'm tryin' tryin' tryin'
Don't cha know I'm tryin' tryin' tryin'
Just to come on back
To Mary Mac
Oh! Softly
I can hear her holler
Hey Bobba Needle - Bobba Needle - Bobba Needle
Hey Bobba Needle - Bobba Needle - Bobba Needle
Hey Bobba Needle - Bobba Needle - Bobba Needle
Hey Bobba Needle - Bobba Needle - Bobba Needle
Hey Bob
Hey Bob
Oh Yeah
Hey Bob

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