Through Guided Tours, Chef Sallie Ann Robinson Is Preserving Daufuskie Island’s Gullah Geechee History

Condé Nast Traveler

Her loved ones also lived off of the richness of that land: Hunting, crabbing, and fishing along the creek have been their way of existence nine pecan trees enveloped her childhood house. Her grandmother’s bountiful, upper body-large back garden was the source of freshly plucked okra for relatives meals.

But following Daufuskie’s oyster harvesting industry dried up by the stop of the 1950s owing to air pollution in the Savannah River, washing absent hundreds of jobs, lots of people left for get the job done alternatives in Hilton Head and Savannah. Robinson also left for Philadelphia to function as a nurse and raise her 5 young children, just before returning to Daufuskie in 2016—all although chronicling Gullah recipes and tales across a collection of cookbooks. And immediately after 3 several years of performing with a regional operator, Tour Daufuskie, in 2019 she commenced her own business, The Sallie Ann Genuine Gullah Tour. She observed the worth of sharing heritage as abundant as her own—and the Gullah Geechee people’s.

“There’s a restrict for any individual who’s not satisfied with what they do,” states Robinson. “Make a much better decision. I know it can be a lot easier claimed than done, don’t get me wrong, but in because of time you should really obtain that house. We all should have that pleasure.”

When I be part of her for a tour, the three-hour experience takes us through streets without the need of stoplights, down intertwining dirt roads, and previous islanders whose principal mode of transportation is a golf cart. Tour stops include things like some of the island’s most vital landmarks, like the Daufuskie Museum and Library, and the Oyster Union Modern society Hall, which Robinson fought to switch into a museum that includes the tales of staff who at the time gathered at the hall soon after a extensive day of racking and shucking oysters at the cannery. At the island’s 141-year-previous To start with African Baptist Church, Robinson performs for our tour group, tearing down the residence with a impressive rendition of I am Heading Residence On The Early morning Practice.

Later on, she normally takes us to the overgrown, now-deserted Mary Area Cemetery, wherever quite a few descendants cannot track down their loved one’s final resting spots. Sitting down in Robinson’s entrance property, beneath a hundreds of years-old oak tree draped in moss, she flips via photo archives of everyday living on Daufuskie, which includes her time as a sixth-quality scholar of Pat Conroy, author of The H2o Is Wide, who put in a 12 months educating on the island.

One of the most riveting visits is to Robinson’s childhood dwelling, a now-depleted wood cottage with a rusted roof, sage-eco-friendly shutters, and a wrap-close to porch. A peek into the residence reveals previous bedding lined in debris and light curtains that even now hang—a reminder of a earlier, still a nod to the future Robinson envisions, also. Daufuskie is comprehensive of historic Gullah residences that will need restoration, and Robinson is on a mission to give them another everyday living.

“My tour is much more than just sharing the really like of escalating up listed here and the persons I grew up with and the lessons I’ve learned,” states Robinson. “It’s [about] what’s happening now.” 

Ten Gullah residences on the island need maintenance, together with the historic cemetery. The Gullah native’s non-earnings, Daufuskie Island Gullah Heritage Modern society, uses a proportion from every single tour ticket toward upcoming refurbishment and routine maintenance efforts. Robinson’s eyesight is to rebuild historic residences alongside the households who possess them, ahead of turning them into money-making getaway rentals. She is leaning on the knowledge of her ancestors and making on the foundation they laid to preserve these critical items of Black historical past. “I am equipped to do one thing they could not do,” she states, “and which is to retain the legacy going.”

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