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Charleston, SC

The Gullah Culture The Sea Islands, a string of barrier islands off South Carolina and Georgia, have been home to the Gullah people for centuries. The Gullahs are descendants of enslaved West Africans shipped to North America on the notorious Middle Passage slave trade route. In the 1700s, the majority of Africans imported to the British colonies entered through Sullivan's Island near Charleston and were dispersed to Lowcountry plantations.

The word Gullah may be a derivation of Angola, one of the countries frequented by slave traders. To communicate among themselves and with plantation overseers, enslaved workers devised pidgin, a hybrid of various West African dialects and the informal English spoken by colonists. This Gullah language, as it came to be known, employs phonetic interpretation of English words (children/chillun) and idiomatic expressions (Tek'e foot een ‘e han, meaning run) and is spoken with distinctive lyrical intonations that might be compared to the Jamaican Patois.

Early in the Civil War, Union troops forced plantation owners out of the Lowcountry. With the help of transition camps and schools, the freed people became independent and had the opportunity to purchase land; many chose to remain on familiar ground—the sea islands where they already knew what to do on the land.

As a community, the Gullah people became self-sufficient, largely due to inherent farming, hunting and fishing skills. Because they were autonomous, Gullahs were able to practice and preserve their African ways, including storytelling, religious worship, food preparation and craftsmanship. Today it is quite common to see Gullah women making and selling artistically coiled sweetgrass baskets—traditionally woven for use in African rice fields—in downtown Charleston and along US 17 in Mount Pleasant.

Except for small-boat commerce, Gullahs remained isolated from the mainland until the first bridges were constructed in the 1950s. Intrusion proved inevitable, however, and some of the coastal land owned by Gullahs was eventually sold and developed into resorts. The Gullah people maintain a strong presence in the Lowcountry, as their ancestors do in the annals of American history. Designated by Congress as a National Heritage Area, the 12,000-mile Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor celebrates the culture of the Gullah Geechee people, who traditionally live by the coasts and islands of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

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Charleston, SC

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2470 Prospect St. North Charleston, SC 29406

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Hyatt Place North Charleston

7331 Mazyck Rd. North Charleston, SC 29406

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Travel Information

City Population



10 ft.

Sales Tax

The 9 percent sales tax rate in Charleston consists of 6 percent South Carolina state sales tax, 1 percent Charleston tax and 2 percent special tax. There is no applicable county tax. There is an admissions tax of 5 percent on most amusements and a 2 percent accommodations tax.



Police (non-emergency)

(843) 577-7434


Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital, (843) 402-1000; MUSC (Medical University of South Carolina), (843) 792-2300; and Roper Hospital, (843) 724-2000.

Air Travel

Most major airlines serve

Rental Cars

Hertz, (843) 767-4554 or (800) 654-3131, is at the airport and offers discounts to AAA members.

Rail Service

The Amtrak train station, (800) 872-7245, is at 4565 Gaynor Ave. in North Charleston.


Service is provided by Southeastern Stages and Greyhound Lines Inc., (843) 744-4247 or (800) 231-2222, at 4565 Gaynor Ave.


Cab companies include Safety Cab, (843) 722-4066; and Yellow Cab, (843) 577-6565. The fare is $5 for all trips that pick up and drop off on the peninsula. A $2 surcharge is added for each additional passenger. Outside of the peninsula, the fare for the first 2 miles is $4 and 35c for each succeeding one-fifth mile. A $1 surcharge is added for each additional passenger. Cabs must be ordered by phone.

Public Transportation

Bus service is provided by Charleston Area Regional Transit Authority (CARTA); phone (843) 724-7420 for information about routes and schedules.

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