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BEAUFORT’S ANNUAL PENN CENTER HERITAGE DAYS CELEBRATION HIGHLIGHTS SEA ISLANDS’ GULLAH, GEECHEE CULT

The Penn Center Heritage Days Celebration, an annual festival that recognizes the Gullah heritage and its ties to West and Central Africa, as well as the Lowcountry, returns to Beaufort from November 7th to 9th.

The Heritage Days Celebration is hosted by the Penn Center, a museum and cultural center situated on the site of the first school for freed slaves established during the Civil War.

Heritage Days Celebration events will encourage attendees to immerse themselves in the Gullah culture through events both educational and entertaining, including:
- An art exhibition featuring Cassandra M. Gillens
- Flags of the Gullah people
- A fish fry and blues night
- An old-fashioned prayer service
- Taste of the Sea Islands
- A Heritage Days symposium
- A Saturday parade
- Gullah Roots Village
- Center-stage entertainment
- Fishing tournament
- Youth Day events & entertainment
- Artists & Authors Row

In addition to the annual Heritage Days celebration, Penn Center also hosts the Community Sing, held every third Sunday from September to May to highlight African-American tradition through song, and its Labor Day Celebration on the Green at Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Park.

“The Heritage Days Celebration is a fun way to learn more about Gullah Geechee history and culture of the Sea Islands,” said Robb Wells, tourism division executive for the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce. “The event draws both locals and tourists to celebrate an important part of American history that is unique to our region.”

Traditionally, the Gullah people live in the Lowcountry region of South Carolina and Georgia. They represent the descendents of West and Central Africans brought to the region during the slave trade and are credited with preserving more African linguistic and cultural heritage than any other African-American community within the United States.

The Gullah people speak an English-based Creole language that contains many African words and significant influences from African languages in grammar and sentence structure. Gullah storytelling, cuisine, music, folk stories, crafts, farming and fishing traditions all can be traced back to West and Central African cultures.

In 1861, Union troops freed the 1,000 slaves on Sea Islands, the first to be freed during the Civil War. Many of these freed slaves went on to serve in the Union Army’s First South Carolina Volunteers. Before the war ended, Pennsylvania Quaker missionaries traveled to the Sea Islands to create schools for newly freed slaves. The Penn Center was the first school established and is located on St. Helena Island.

For more information about Gullah culture or about the Heritage Days Celebration, visit www.PennCenter.com or call (843) 838-2432.

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