When Roots Die
Endangered Traditions on the Sea Islands

Patricia Jones-Jackson
Foreword by Charles Joyner


"A remarkable book about the life and language of the Sea Islands."
National Geographic

"Jones-Jackson's sketches of her Wadmalaw Island friends and informants are uniformly rewarding. In a series of gilt-edged portraits, she introduces us to Gullah-speaking men and women whom the twentieth century is crowding out. . . . At the end of this short book, the reader wishes there were more. More tales from the lips of Ted Williams; more sermons from the allusive genius of the Reverend Renty Pickney, who has memorized the Bible; more interviews with fishermen like Daniel Dent, who can call porpoises for miles around."
Natural History

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When Roots Die celebrates and preserves the venerable Gullah culture of the sea islands of the South Carolina and Georgia coast. Entering into communities long isolated from the world by a blazing sun and salt marshes, Patricia Jones-Jackson captures the cadence of the storyteller lost in the adventures of "Brer Rabbit," records voices lifted in song or prayer, and describes folkways and beliefs that have endured, through ocean voyage and human bondage, for more than two hundred years.
Page count: 224 pp.
15 b&w photos, 1 map, 4 charts
Trim size: 6 x 9

Read more about Gullah culture at the New Georgia Encyclopedia.


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Patricia Jones-Jackson, an associate professor of English at Howard University, died in 1986 while on assignment for the National Geographic Society on Johns Island, South Carolina. Charles Joyner, author of Down by the Riverside: A South Carolina Slave Community, is Burroughs Distinguished Professor of Southern History and Culture at the University of South Carolina, Coastal College.