Among the most evocative and unique items in the new National Museum of African American History and Culture is a textile dubbed “Ashley’s Sack.” Historian Mark Auslander recently published an account of the likely provenance and history of the sack. You can read it at Southern Spaces. Auslander goes on to explore the emergence and evolution of the interpretation of slavery at historic sites such as Middleton Place – one of the most prominent rice plantations in the Rice Kingdom and among the most visited public history sites there today.
The Gullah/Geechees in the northeast corner of Florida get much less attention than those in Georgia and South Carolina. This piece from St. Augustine shows that the Gullah-Geechee Corridor is having an effect there too. Wherever Geechee are you also get the commonality of rice, as interviewee Edith Harris says here: “We would say, ‘Oh he’s a Geechee, or she’s a Geechee,’” she said, laughing. “And, ‘My don’t they like rice.’”
No aspect of the Rice Kingdom’s past is more fraught now than gaining a proper understanding of what Lowcountry slavery was like in scope and texture. We can’t truly know it, but we can come much closer than we have. Formal education is one place that this must take place but for many who are past classroom days museums, tours, and as array of media forms must do this job. For that to happen those who exhibit, write, speak, and shape institutions have to be committed to reckoning with the past.
See Ron Stodghill’s nicely illustrated piece on this subject.
Historical amnesia is powerful. For two hundred years or more, white rice planters in the Rice Kingdom denied that Africans contributed any thing but brute labor to rice culture. Thanks to scholars from many disciplines that amnesia has been replaced with knowledge of many contributions. The latest is DNA work that shows that a rice variety used in Suriname today is an African (Oryza glaberrima) variety.
Appropriately for the new National Museum of African American History and Culture the rice kingdom is well represented. Several objects from rice plantations are featured including a full slave cabin from Edisto Island. Among the most poignant is the famous, but not nearly famous enough, memento dubbed “Ashley’s Sack” for a daughter who was sold away from Middleton Place. Read more about these and other SC items in the museum. Better still, make a visit to the museum which opens this weekend.
Hannah Raskin revealed in the Post and Courier that a home movie demonstrating a range of rice culture practices has been discovered. The film dates from 1941 and took place on the Edisto River plantation called Willtown Bluff.
The video has been made available on the Post and Courier’s website.
Rodale’s Organic Gardening did their part to educate their readership about Carolina gold Rice!
I remember reading a short biography of Harriet Tubman in middle school. She amazed me and was the first person I read about who fought against slavery.
Source: Creative Commons
This week’s announcement that Tubman will grace the $20 bill in four years is a milestone. It should lead to a much greater knowledge of her remarkable life. Her bravery and commitment to the cause of freedom was the equal of anyone’s. It takes a special quality to go undercover as she did many times. No mission yielded more spectacular results than the one that resulted in a slave-freeing raid on the Combahee rice plantation in 1863. National Geographic has a nice piece on that event.
Today, the bridge of US Highway 17 that crosses the Combahee is named Harriet Tubman Bridge.
The BBC Travel staff ran a story on Carolina Gold Rice, Charleston, the food scene and such.
The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation is supporting efforts by the NC Land Trust and the town of Navassa, a small (est 1500), but growing town in the Rice Kingdom to preserve elements of Gullah history and culture. This grant is to move the town and organization in the direction of protecting historic rice culture land and to investigate the prospects for a Gullah cultural institute in North Carolina.
It seems clear that exciting momentum is building on many fronts as a result of the Gullah Geechee Corridor.