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The history of Gullah Geechee culture in South Carolina

Ron Daise discusses Gullah Geechee culture as part of Furman's celebration of Black History Month.

For some Furman students, their recent visit with Ron Daise was an introduction to Gullah Geechee culture.

For others, it was also a chance to meet and sing with the star of one of their favorite childhood television shows, “Gullah Gullah Island.”

Daise, vice president for creative education at Brookgreen Gardens in Pawleys Island, S.C., traveled to Furman last week to share a unique program of sing-alongs and storytelling called “Gullah Geechee Connections.”

His visit was sponsored by the Furman University National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives in Student Life (DIISL).

“We wanted to give students the chance to learn something new about Gullah Geechee culture and come to more fully appreciate another part of South Carolina history,” said Noah Trotter ’19, a communication studies major from Douglasville, Ga., who helped organize the event.

Daise, a native of St. Helena Island, S.C., was awarded the South Carolina Order of the Palmetto in 1996 and the State of South Carolina Folk Heritage Award in 1997. He and his wife, Natalie, starred in the musical children’s television series, “Gullah Gullah Island,” on the Nickelodeon network from 1994 to 1998. The show was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award as an Outstanding Pre-School Children’s Series.

Like the book he wrote with the same name, Daise gave students lots of “Gullah Tings Fa Tink Bout.” He shared a spirited collection of stories and original poetry showcasing his personal heritage. He also provided a snapshot of the history of Gullah Geechee communities in South Carolina and drew connections with the people and traditions of tribes in Ghana and Sierra Leone.

“The program made me think more deeply about discussions about race we’ve had in my philosophy class,” said Jada Wilson ’18, a health science major from Rock Hill, S.C. “I really enjoyed it.”

“It was truly an honor to host Mr. Daise on campus, and was sort of nostalgic for me. I remember watching ‘Gullah Gullah Island’ as a kid in southern Ohio and being in awe. With vibrant scenery, and infectious sing-alongs, this show showcased an important yet overlooked part of African-American culture,” said Deborah Allen, Furman’s associate director of student activities for diversity engagement.

More than a dozen events celebrating Black History Month took place on Furman’s campus including:

  • 20, Pink goes Red for Heart Health: Line Dancing Class
    Trone Center, Watkins Room, 6 p.m.
    Hosted by Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
  • 20, The Life and Legacy of Malcolm X, CLP
    Physical Activities Center 116, 7 p.m.
    Hosted by NAACP
  • 21, Screening ofRosenwald, CLP
    Q&A follows with Peter M. Ascoli
    Younts Conference Center, 7 p.m.
    Hosted by the Furman Departments of Education and History, and the
    Greenville Jewish Federation
  • 22, The Third Reconstruction, CLP
    Featuring Rev. William Barber and Rev. Johnathan Wilson-Hartgrove
    Daniel Memorial Chapel, 7 p.m.
    Hosted by Mere Christianity Forum & NAACP
  • 24, Screening of Skin
    Trone Center, Burgiss Theater, 6 p.m.
    Hosted by Baba Africa

For more information, please contact Deborah Allen at 864-294-2076 or


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