African American Life in the Georgia Lowcountry
The Atlantic World and the Gullah Geechee

Edited by Philip Morgan

New perspectives on an understudied culture


"This is a fascinating and important collection. These thoughtful and incisive essays by an international team of interdisciplinary scholars illuminate a place and a past still palpable today, reminding us not only of the collective tragedies of slavery and segregation but also of the creation and evolution of the indomitable and beautiful Gullah-Geechee culture."
—Charles Joyner, author of Down by the Riverside

"These ten excellent essays on the Gullah-Geechee people in the Georgia lowcountry enrich and complicate our understanding of the entire subject of American slavery and its legacies."
—David Brion Davis, author of Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World

"This splendid collection illuminates an aspect of African American culture that has been neglected in the past."

“The ten essays collected in this volume are wide ranging both chronologically (from the eighteenth-century to the modern day) and methodologically, encompassing the disciplines of history, literature, and cultural studies. Together they provide a detailed and interesting insight into the worlds created by Africans in the lowcountry . . . This volume is to be welcomed and hopefully it will stimulate others to continue the work on this small part of Africa in America.”
American Historical Review

Helen Maria Williams (1759-1827) “All of the essays are well crafted, and several of them, particularly those by Vincent Carretta, Betty Wood, and Michael A. Gomez, are by themselves worth the price of the volume . . . This book greatly deepens our understanding of the life and culture of lowcountry blacks and is essential reading for all interested in the African experience in early America.”
Journal of American History

"Morgan does a superb job of linking Georgia to a larger Atlantic world. . . .[and t]he contributors indeed are successful in offering a sustained, thoughtful balance of the history, culture, and people of this region."
—Daina Ramey Berry, Journal of Southern History

"Each essay in this collection exhibits a deep understanding of low country African American studies. . . .[T]he volume deserves to reach a diverse readership of students, scholars, and laypeople."
—Hayden R. Smith, The South Carolina Historical Magazine

"Through a valuable assortment of methodological approaches and scholarly perspectives, African American Life in the Georgia Lowcountry demystifies aspects of African American life in this region."
—Brandon Byrd, Journal of African American History

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The lush landscape and subtropical climate of the Georgia coast only enhance the air of mystery enveloping some of its inhabitants—people who owe, in some ways, as much to Africa as to America. As the ten previously unpublished essays in this volume examine various aspects of Georgia Lowcountry life, they often engage a central dilemma: the region’s physical and cultural remoteness helps to preserve the venerable ways of its black inhabitants, but it can also marginalize the vital place of Lowcountry blacks in the Atlantic World.

The essays, which cover a period from the founding of the Georgia colony in the early 1700s until the early 1900s, explore a range of topics, all within the larger context of the Atlantic world. Included are essays on the double-edged freedom that the American Revolution made possible to black women, the Lowcountry as site of the largest gathering of African Muslims in early North America, and the coexisting worlds of Christianity and Conjuring in coastal Georgia and the links (with variations) to African practices.

A number of fascinating, memorable characters emerge, among them the defiant Mustapha Shaw, who felt entitled to land on Ossabaw Island and resisted its seizure by whites only to become embroiled in struggles with other blacks; Betty, the slave woman who, in the spirit of the American Revolution, presented a “list of grievances” to her master; and S’Quash, the Arabic-speaking Muslim who arrived on one of the last legal transatlantic slavers and became a head man on a North Carolina plantation.

Race in the Atlantic World, 1700-1900

Published in association with the Georgia Humanities Council

Page count: 320 pp.
Trim size: 6.125 x 9.25

Read more about Geechee and Gullah culture at the New Georgia Encyclopedia.


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Philip Morgan is Harry C. Black Professor of History at the Johns Hopkins University. His book Slave Counterpoint: Black Culture in the Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake and Lowcountry won the Bancroft Prize and a number of other prestigious awards. His recent books include Black Experience and the Empire and Arming Slaves: From Classical Times to the Modern Age.