Gullah/Geechee of Sapelo Island reclaim sugarcane to fight cultural erasure

There is no U.S. agricultural history without the expertise and labor of African people who were enslaved across the South, including the Gullah/Geechee people of the lower Atlantic Coast. But the violence of slavery and white supremacy is tied up with the crops that grew the global economy, embedding sugarcane, cotton, rice, and other historic commercial crops with a traumatic legacy.

For the Sapelo Island community—which includes the largest and most intact population of Gullah/Geechee descendants left in the U.S.—the decades-long fight against cultural erasure from developers has opened the door to reclaiming those crops as an indelible part of their heritage; growing them on the community’s own terms may be the way to preserve their own future on Sapelo.

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