Georgia Gullah-Geechee Community Fighting To Preserve Land Under Attack By State Officials
Nationwide, members of the Gullah-Geechee community are fighting to preserve their rights to land that has been protected for decades against growing pressure from developers and ever-increasing tax rates. The latest battle is taking place on Sapelo Island off the coast of Georgia.
According to NBC News, McIntosh County commissioners have unveiled a proposal to do away with zoning ordinances that limit homes to modest sizes near the dwellings of about 30 to 50 Black residents. The rules, introduced in 1994, fall under the Cultural Protection Overlay (CPO) and have protected the residents of Hogg Hummock along with other Gullah-Geechee communities throughout several coastal islands in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.
“It’s the erasure of a historical culture that’s still intact after 230 years,” said Reginal Hall, a Hogg Hummock landowner whose family’s roots are deeply connected to the island, told NBC News. “Once you raise those limits and the land value increases, we only have two to three years at most. If you talk about the descendants of the enslaved, 90% of us will be gone.”
Sapelo Island sits 60 miles south of Savannah and is only reachable by boat, making it a perfect attraction for those looking to build massive vacation homes that could price local residents off the land.
Due to its isolation from the mainland, its descendants have been able to maintain their cultural traditions and customs, including their language. According to NBC News, Hogg Hummock was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1996, the official list of America’s treasured historic sites.
Now, its residents are dependent on the ruling of the local government in McIntosh County—where 65 percent of the 11,100 residents are white—to help preserve their legacy. Currently, Hogg Hummock is recognized as a community with “unique needs in regard to its historic resources.” But the proposed legislation would eradicate that recognition and allow developers to demolish structures on the island as they see fit.