Beaufort’s Penn Center Heritage Days Celebration Highlights the Lowcountry’s Rich Gullah Culture

Beaufort, S.C., August 14, 2014 – The annual Penn Center Heritage Days Celebration returns to Beaufort this November to celebrate the history and legacy of the Gullah Geechee and the Lowcountry’s ties to West Africa.

The festival takes place Thursday, November 6 through Saturday, November 8 and takes place on the historical campus of 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 showcase Gullah cultural connections and immerse visitors in West African traditions through both educational and entertaining events, including:
- An art exhibition featuring York W. Bailey
- An old-fashioned prayer service
- A road of remembrance
- An opening ceremony and founders memorial
- Friday center stage entertainment
- A Heritage Days symposium
- A fish fry, oyster roast and blues night
- A Saturday parade
- Artists and Authors Row
- Gullah Roots Village
- Center-stage entertainment
- Youth Day events and entertainment

The celebration also includes the Gospel Praise Celebration on Saturday, November 1.

“The Heritage Days Celebration is always a fun weekend packed with all aspects of the rich Gullah Geechee history of the Lowcountry,” said Robb Wells, tourism division executive for the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce. “It’s exciting to see how many locals and tourists come every year to celebrate and experience the Gullah culture.”

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 or call (843) 838-2432.

About the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce
The Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce represents the city of Beaufort, the second oldest city in South Carolina. Founded by the British in 1711, the city has a rich history that dates back centuries with ties to the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Beaufort is made up of Port Royal Island and its surrounding area within the Lowcountry. The city generates approximately two million visitors annually, and is regarded as one of the most diverse communities because of its historic character and prominent architecture. It is home to one of the largest population of Gullahs, a culture known for preserving its African linguistic and cultural heritage more than any other African-American community within the United States. The Marine Corps Recruit Depot for the Eastern Seaboard can also be found in Beaufort, in addition to the Marine Corps Air Station and Naval Hospital.

The Beaufort Visitors Center is located at 713 Craven Street in downtown Beaufort.
For more information about Beaufort, visit, and

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Media Contact:
Kimberly McCollum
The Brandon Agency
(843) 916-2000

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