Thursday, July 22, 2004

Beaufort, South Carolina - I hadn't planned to visit Beaufort when I first thought of going on this trip. Actually Beaufort wasn't on the radar. A friend informed me about the Penn Center, the first educational facility established for freed Africans American after the Civil War and after reading about Penn I became interested in Beaufort South Carolina. The primary filming location of Forest Gump (which I've never seen) and the location where the South decided to secede from the Union.

The oblivious old wealth of Beaufort - it's tabby buildings designed with beauty and creativity portraits for me how beauty and evil can flourish together. Our tour guide tried hard to convince us that the level of slavery at Beaufort was more civil than other places. The slaves could own land, many were educated, not overworked, and some even missed the old days of slavery after emancipation. But on the same tour we were told about Robert Small an enslaved man who disguised himself as a boat Captain and commandeer the ship The Planter, with it's crew and their families to freedom and the Union Army. If slavery was so good why didn't Small stay and fight for the Confederates? Small's feeling matched the majority of the enslaved in Beaufort who desired freedom and control over their lives rather than a comfortable hell.

After we toured Beaufort we drove to St. Helena Island to the Penn Center. The Penn Center has a museum with permanent displays dedicated to Gullah Culture and the history of the Penn Center. The located of the Center is very charming with it's oak trees raining Spanish Moss. While there I was able to hear a lecture about Gullah culture by luck - I crashed a lecture by accident. I had seen Daughters of the Dust and always had a romantic vision of the Gullah people.

But theGullah's struggle to protect their culture and way of life is not just romantic fancy but a real issue to support.


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