Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Remember When . . . Cultures Collided in the Old South?

Though I still feel like I've barely scratched the surface of the research I need to do for my Savannah-set work-in-progress, thanks to Saving Savannah and the mountains of research the author has done, I'm beginning to get an idea of what oh-so-interesting details I want to work in.

And of course, one of the biggies is the slave culture in lowland Georgia All I knew of it was what I'd picked up from novels and movies--I've already learned more just from the first chapter of this book, LOL.

Most of Savannah's slave population came from West Africa, and after their years here they developed a mish-mash of African and American ideas. Some meshed together well, other aspects seemed to clash. The culture of South Carolina and Georgia slaves has come to be termed Gullah-Geechee. Their language was Geechee--a combination of English and West African dialects. And they used Geechee to speak through metaphors, which I find really interesting. Gonna have to find a good way to do that among the slaves in my book!

The Gullah-Geechee culture draws a lot from its landscape, and the lowland, marshy regions in which the enslaved now served had a lot of similarities to their homeland, where waterways were sacred--they were in fact believed to host spirits and allow them to circulate among the living. So you can imagine that everyday life in an area spiderwebbed with marshlands fostered a spiritual existence for these people.

Which leads right into their faith and religion. Some stuck solely to West African beliefs, but even those who embraced Christianity had a unique type of it that integrated their traditions into it. Most believed in ghosts and spirits--they were a fact of life in their eyes, not up for debate. Christian baptism reinforced their beliefs about water being sacred. Their stories began to shift to include what they were taught and what was around them--another something I'm looking forward to integrating into my story!

The final detail I'll put in here today is their trade and economy. When a slave had finished his allotted labor for the day (if he/she could finish it, which wasn't always possible), they were permitted to work for their family. Most slave families ended up with chickens and gardens, with hogs and goods that they traded first among themselves and then were allowed to take in the cities. Some--few--ended up with a little nest egg. Mostly, though, these resources were what fed and clothed them--and the masters took it as an excuse not to do so themselves.

So there we have the first glimpse of what will be a secondary, underlying setting for my book. My little brain's just a-turning, trying to figure out how to smoothly put a storyline in that will showcase this unique culture that would have been pulsing alongside the world of hoop skirts and balls!


  1. Oh, I can hardly wait to read your book!


  2. Yeah, Jordan, I'm looking forward to reading it too, because that'll mean it's done, LOL. At the moment it has 10 pages. Must write--but must research more first!!