Daufuskie Island is known for its rich Gullah history. When Union troops occupied Daufuskie Island at the end of the Civil War, the plantation owners were driven off the island, freeing the slaves. These folks, now referred to as “Gullah”, stayed on the island and continued to farm, fish, and harvest oysters. In 1959 the Savannah River became severely polluted due to a paper mill company in Savannah. This event wiped out the oyster population. The Gullah people lost their livelihood and most were forced to leave the island, resulting in signs of abandonment throughout the island.
From the period of 1959-1980, the Gullah population on the island fell from 2,000 to just 50. Community gathering places like the First Union African Baptist Church closed down due to lack of people on the island. Fortunately, many of these historic buildings have been restored by the Daufuskie Island Historical Foundation.
To see what remains of the Gullah culture on Daufuskie Island, join Sallie Ann Robinson for her Native Gullah Tour!
Sallie is a 6th generation native of Daufuskie Island. As an authority of Gullah culture, she has appeared in programs such as QVC, the Food Network, and the Travel Channel’s “Bizzare Foods”. She is also a frequent favorite in magazine such as National Geographic, The South, Southern Living, and Hilton Head Monthly. As a child, bridge-less Daufuskie Island was Sallie’s playground and her life was filled with tales from elders. The famous author Pat Conroy taught Sallie Ann along with many Gullah children at the Maryfield School, and their time together is remembered in Conroy’s bestselling book The Water is Wide(fun fact – Sallie Ann was “Ethel” in the novel and Daufuskie is known as “Yamacraw Island”). Nowadays, Robinson is a recognized TV personality, celebrity chef, and spokesperson for preserving the legacy of Gullah culture. She is an author to two Gullah cookbooks; “Gullah Home Cooking the Daufuskie Way” and “Cooking the Gullah Way, Morning, Noon, and Night”.
The Sallie Ann Native Gullah Tour is currently offered Tuesdays and Saturdays at 10am and 2pm. The cost is $55 for just the on-island tour, and from $89 with round-trip boat service. For reservations call Tour Daufuskie at 843-842-9449 — please book your tour at least 48 hours in advance to ensure availability.