The Gullah People and Their African Heritage

William S. Pollitzer
Foreword by David Moltke-Hansen

A complete history and celebration of the Gullah people


"A landmark study . . . There is much in this book to be admired. . . . This interesting work draws together a large and varied literature into an easily accessible whole. Representing a lifetime of interest, Pollitzer offers us not only his expertise, but his admiration for the Gullah."
Journal of Southern History

"An excellent book . . . An outstanding summary of our understanding of the Gullah and an important original addition to the literature of the Sea Islands."
South Carolina Historical Magazine

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The Gullah people are one of our most distinctive cultural groups. Isolated off the South Carolina-Georgia coast for nearly three centuries, the native black population of the Sea Islands has developed a vibrant way of life that remains, in many ways, as African as it is American. This landmark volume tells a multifaceted story of this venerable society, emphasizing its roots in Africa, its unique imprint on America, and current threats to its survival.

With a keen sense of the limits to establishing origins and tracing adaptations, William S. Pollitzer discusses such aspects of Gullah history and culture as language, religion, family and social relationships, music, folklore, trades and skills, and arts and crafts. Readers will learn of the indigo- and rice-growing skills that slaves taught to their masters, the echoes of an African past that are woven into baskets and stitched into quilts, the forms and phrasings that identify Gullah speech, and much more. Pollitzer also presents a wealth of data on blood composition, bone structure, disease, and other biological factors. This research not only underscores ongoing health challenges to the Gullah people but also helps to highlight their complex ties to various African peoples.

Drawing on fields from archaeology and anthropology to linguistics and medicine, The Gullah People and Their African Heritage celebrates a remarkable people and calls on us to help protect their irreplaceable culture.

Page count: 336 pp.
Trim size: 6.125 x 9.25


List price: $30.95

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William S. Pollitzer was a professor emeritus of anatomy and anthropology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. A past president of both the American Association of Physical Anthropologists and the Human Biology Council, Pollitzer published almost one hundred articles, most of them dealing with Indian, African American, or triracial populations and their history and admixture.