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Georgia's Gullah-Geechee Heritage: Films

The Gullah-Geechee are descendants of enslaved West African people who worked on coastal plantations from North Carolina to northern Florida.

A Local Connection

The film, Conrack, is based on writer Pat Conroy's memoir, The Water is Wide. It is the story of Conroy's real-life experiences as a school teacher to Gullah children on remote Daufuskie Island, S.C., in 1969. The film was shot on St. Simons Island and in Brunswick, Georgia, and includes many local people. Pat Conroy was played by Jon Voight, and other stars include Madge Sinclair, Hume Cronyn, Paul Winfield and Antonio Fargas.

Read the review: March 28, 1974: The New York Times

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Gullah-Geechee Films

  • Daughters of the Dust. Dir. Julie Dash. Perf. Cora Lee Day, Alva Rogers, Barbarao, Kaycee Moore. 1991. An African-American family struggles with a painful past and an uncertain future, as some members prepare to leave their island home to start new lives on the mainland. There is a character named Bilali Muhammad in the film (portrayed by Umar Abdurrahamn), an obvious nod to the Sapelo Island patriarch. Set in 1902 on a Georgia sea island. (112 minutes). Call Number: DVD PN1997 .D3773 2000 and PN1997 .D38 2000.
  • Family Across the Sea. Dir. Tim Carrier. 1991. A delegation of Gullah-Geechee descendants from Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas visits Sierra Leone to discover the remarkable connections between to the two cultures. (57 minutes).
  • The Language You Cry In. Dirs. Alvaro Toepke, Angel Serrano. Perf. Vertamae Grosvenor (narrator). 1998. This moving documentary shows how a song passed down through the generations connects one Georgia Geechee family to a Mende village in West Africa. (52 minutes). Available in Black Studies in Video in Alexander Street, a GALILEO database
  • Stay in De Boat. Dirs. Michael Broderick, Morgan Furr, Jack Neligan, and Zane Tharp. 2012. South Carolina Gullahs tell their story in this documentary that does not feature a narrator or any other interpretation.The film was supported by a grant from the South Carolina National Heritage Corridor with matching funds from the College of Charleston.  
  • The Will to Survive: The Story of the Gullah Geechee Nation. 2006. A documentary in Walmart's "Voices of Color" series, filmed mostly on Sapelo Island, Ga., and on St. Helena Island, S.C. The film was produced by E. Morris Communications for Walmart. (45 minutes).

More films related to the Gullah-Geechee culture:

  • Bin Yah: There's No Place Like Home (2008)
  • Conrack (1974; filmed on St. Simons Island and in Brunswick, Ga.)
  • God's Gonna Trouble the Water (1997)
  • Gullah Tales (1988)
  • Home Across the Water (1992) 
  • Tales of the Unknown South (1984) (Includes a Gullah ghost story.)
  • There is a River (2003) (Episode 1 of This Far by Faith, PBS)
  • When Rice Was King (1990)



Daughters of the Dust

The Language You Cry In

Family Across the Sea