Gullah Spirituals: The Sound of Freedom and Protest in the South Carolina Sea Islands,
with Dr. Eric Sean Crawford
In this book talk, Gullah Spirituals musicologist Eric Crawford traces Gullah Geechee songs from their beginnings in West and Central Africa to their height as songs for social change and Black identity in the twentieth-century American South. Most notably, the island’s songs were used at the turn of the century to help rally support for the United States’ involvement in World War I and to calm racial tensions between Black and White soldiers. Later, civil rights activists adopted spirituals as freedom songs. It is hope that this lecture will bring awareness of the importance of Gullah Geechee to the American musical landscape.
About the Author: Eric Crawford holds a Ph.D. in musicology from The Catholic University of America. His research focuses on the rich tradition of Gullah music, specifically the retentions and alterations that have occurred since the antebellum period. Beginning in 2007, he conducted extensive field recordings on Saint Helena Island, site of the historic Port Royal Experiment, and his transcriptions are held at the Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. An outgrowth of this work was the Saint Helena Island Gullah Spirituals Project, which was a collaborative effort among scholars and students to preserve and foster the study of the earliest recorded Negro spirituals. In 2013, the Athenaeum Press at Coastal Carolina University published his field interviews in a CD and accompanying booklet entitled Gullah: The Voice of an Island.
His work on historic Sandy Island led to the 2017 publication At Low Tide: The Voices of Sandy Island. This booklet and interactive multi-media project highlight the rich history of Sandy Island and the need to ensure this island’s continued survival. As part of this effort, a Civil Rights Grant from the National Park Service was to rebuild the island’s historic school and create an interactive cultural center. In 2018, Crawford was instrumental in receiving a National Archives Grant that centralizes South Carolina’s Gullah Geechee research at Coastal Carolina University. Most recently he appeared in Henry Louis Gates’ miniseries “The Black Church” and is music consultant for the Amazon miniseries “The Underground Railroad.” His 2021 book Gullah Spirituals: The Sound of Freedom and Protest in the South Carolina Sea Islands is published by the University of South Carolina Press, and his new book Gullah Culture in America will be released in 2022 by Blair Publishing.
Please join us!
FOBL Annual Meeting and Bluffton Branch Birthday Party:
9 am: FOBL Annual Meeting
10 -11:30: Dr. Crawford’s talk with music
the history of Gullah Geechee songs from their beginnings in West Africa to the 20th-century American South
[special activities for Kids in the Children’s Room];
11:45: Bluffton Library Building’s 20th Birthday Celebration in the lobby.
Sponsored by the Friends of the Bluffton Library.
Time and Date of Event: November 12, 2022, 9 am – 12 pm
Location of Event: Bluffton Library, 120 Palmetto Way
Price of Event: Free and open to the public