The Ghosts Are Dying
Stories from the Gullah Geechee Elders
                The oral histories of twelve 80- and 90-year-old elders from Jasper County, South Carolina, represent the memories of those who 
        survived enslavement and hard times in the South. These stories, collected between 2005 and 2007, describe growing up in a rice
        culture originating in West Africa, and of retaining cultural habits and language. They are now even more pertinent since most of
        these individuals have passed. They agreed to share their stories for a book that the general public could access rather than a video
        documentary that would require playback technology.
        The Coosawhatchie Senior Center served the elders from hamlets and crossroads of Coosawhatchie, Gillisonville, Pineland, Grays,  
        Ridgeland, Point South, Early Branch and Pocotaligo for many decades. Through regular activities, meals, and creating crafts passed
        down from one generation to the next, the elders gathered to share their lives shaped by the experience of rural South Carolina and
        the Gullah Geechee culture.
        As a descendent of this culture from St. Helena Island, South Carolina, Althea has been able to document her culture from an
        insider's perspective. These 80- and 90-year-olds were filled with memories of growing up in families with a history of enslavement
        and growing rice on the plantations that have since become communities on land their families now own.

Photos: Althea Sumpter

Follow my work as I write the stories of these elders. I continue sitting with elders to document their lives and capture the stories of the few remaining from this era -- before they are all gone and the ghosts no longer live.
   Ella Horton
Ulmer Evell Terry
Smithie Jenkins
 Anna Owens
   Lyda C. 
The ghosts are dying -- the way my grandmother would describe the link with those who have come before. Linking with the past is what I felt I was doing when an elder cousin asked for me to sit with her to hear more stories, and then she told me about her grandfather who "came over in the boat." I was holding the hands of a cousin who learned about life from an enslaved African. She died a few weeks later -- the link to that ghost, broken.

Why Do This Work?

Mae Etta