Here is a brief sampling of African-American heritage and historical sites in Brunswick and on St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island.
After the Civil War, African Americans who had lived at Hofwyl and other rice plantations along the Altamaha River – Hopeton, Elizafield, Grantly, New Hope and others – settled into small communities nearby while continuing to work, for pay, at the same jobs they had previously done as slaves. Many of these communities had very descriptive names. Needwood, a nearby settlement, was so named for the shortage of "fat wood" for cooking fires. Another community bore a name that needs no explanation: Freedman's Rest.
Rice harvesting ceased at Hofwyl in 1915 and the plantation became a state historic site in 1974. Today, visitors can learn about plantation life and the endless labor required through exhibits, an orientation film and tours of the plantation home and former rice paddies. Located 10.6 miles north of the Brunswick Golden Isles Visitor Center on US Hwy. 17. Information: 912-264-7333 or www.gastateparks.org/HofwylBroadfield.
|Entrance, Selden Park|
|Colored Memorial School|
|First African Baptist Ch.|
St. Athanasius' Church. Home to Brunswick's second oldest black congregation. 1321 Albany Street, 912-264-3985.
St. Paul AME Church. Home to Brunswick's third oldest black congregation. 1520 Wolfe Street, 912-264-2734.
ST. SIMONS ISLAND
|Neptune Small marker|
Neptune Park, St. Simons Island
Neptune returned to war accompanying a second King son, R. Cuyler King, until Confederate forces surrendered in 1865. After the war, freedman Neptune, having chosen the surname "Small" for his slight stature, was given a tract of land at the southern end of St. Simons Island by the King family. He died in 1907 and was laid to rest in the old Retreat Burying Ground, where a bronze tablet recounts his story. Part of his former home is today a popular waterfront park, named in his honor.
Neptune Park is located in the St. Simons Island village area, along the waterfront between Mallery and 12th Street. The park is open daily from dawn to dusk.
|Emmanuel Baptist Church|
St. Simons Island
Emmanuel Baptist Church. 1407 Demere Road. 912-638-3852.
Retreat Plantation Slave Cabin. Though many of the structures from St. Simons Island's numerous 19th plantations have disappeared, a few cabins built to house slaves remain. These dwellings, built in the early 1800s, often housed two families. This cabin was part of Retreat Plantation. It now houses a gift shop. Located at the intersection of Frederica and Demere Roads, at the southeast corner of the roundabout.
Retreat Plantation Hospital ruin. Once the hospital for the enslaved Africans of Retreat Plantation, the tabby structure was two and a half stories and contained ten rooms. Two women lived there as nurses, and a doctor from Darien occasionally visited to care for the ill. Located on the grounds of the Sea Island Golf Club (private).
St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church. 2700 Demere Road. 912-638-4460.
|Hamilton Plantation slave cabins|
Gascoigne Bluff, St. Simons Island
Ebo Landing. The term, Igbo (pronounced "ee-bow") refers to persons from the West African area known as Igboland, now Nigeria. In May 1803, a mass drowning of slaves occurred at a point now called Ebo Landing, located along Dunbar Creek, a tributary of the Frederica River. A group of Igbo tribesman, captured and destined for slavery, rebelled as their boat neared shore. Led by an Igbo chieftain, the proud tribesmen marched into the waters of the creek, chanting an Igbo hymn and trusting in the protection of their God, Chukwu, rather than submit to slavery. Survivors were taken to Cannon's Point Plantation on St. Simons Island, and to Sapelo Island, where their story was recounted. Their tale forms the basis of a well-known local legend, of Igbo spirits still roaming the banks of Dunbar Creek. The general area of Igbo Landing is on private property. It can be seen from a distance along Sea Island Road, by looking to the northeast from the Dunbar Creek bridge.
|Harrington Graded School|
St. Simons Island
Harrington has been the site of numerous historical and cultural events, according to the St. Simons African American Heritage Coalition. In the 1930s, interviewers from the Georgia Writers Unit of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) visited St. Simons Island, Their report, published as Drums and Shadow, describes Harrington's homes and residents and includes an interview with Ben Sullivan whose father, Belali, was butler to James Couper of Altama. In 1949, Lorenzo Dow Turner interviewed Harrington resident Belle Murray for his study, "Africanisms in the Gullah Dialect." Turner also recorded several songs for Lydia Parrish, author of Slave Songs of the Georgia Sea Islands." Parrish's book included a photo of Harrington School, taken by photographer Forestra Hodgson Wood.
In 1961, Alan Lomax filmed the orginal Georgia Sea Island Singers at the camp located between North and South Harrington Road. These recordings are today part of the Library of Congress and Smithsonian Folkways Collection. The 1974 movie, "Conrack," starring Jon Voight, was filmed on St. Simons Island at Harrington School. The movie is based on Pat Conroy's book, The Water is Wide, which details his experience teaching Gullah-Geechee children on Daufuskie Island, South Carolina.
Today, Harrington is considered to have the island's largest concentration of residents who trace their ancestry directly back to African-American slaves. Efforts are under way to restore Harrington School, which served as the main educational structure for three African-American communities on St. Simons Island until desegregation in the 1960s. The restoration is being undertaken by the St. Simons African American Heritage Coalition in cooperation with the St. Simons Land Trust. Harrington School is located on South Harrington Road, which intersects Frederica Road near Benny's Red Barn. Information: www.ssaahc.org.
|First African Baptist Church|
St. Simons Island
St. Simons Island
Never forgetting his family's slave background, Abbott returned to St. Simons Island in the 1930s and erected an obelisk, honoring his father, Thomas Abbott, and two beloved aunts, Celia Abbott and Mary Abbott Finnick, on the grounds of Fort Frederica. Abbott's often lonely struggles for positive race relations in the early 20th century led author Roi Ottley to call him "The Lonely Warrior," the title of Ottley's 1955 biography of Robert S. Abbott. Located on the grounds of Fort Frederica National Monument. Open daily, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Information: 912-638-3639 or www.nps.gov/fofr.
|Hampton slave cabin ruins|
St Simons Island
Jekyll Island History Center. Housed in the former Jekyll Island Club stable, the history center displays exhibits devoted to Jekyll Island's past. Among items displayed are a painting of the slave ship, Wanderer, and images of Red Row, living quarters for African-Americans who were employed by the Jekyll Island Club when the island was a retreat for America's wealthiest families. Red Row was named for the red roofs of its 12 cottages. The small community included a schoolhouse and a church. Located on Stable Road in the Jekyll Island National Historic Landmark District. Open daily except Christmas from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Information: 912-635-3636 or www.jekyllisland.com.
Special thanks to Dee C. Lubell, executive director of A Project for Cultural Affairs (APCA), who graciously reviewed this material and provided insight into the area's African American heritage. APCA's mission is "to learn, teach, and heal through the arts; to preserve the way of life, heritage, arts and letters of the African American and African societies throughout the Diaspora. APCA carries out its mission through a variety of programs including the annual Sea Islands Black Heritage Festival, Island Club Cabaret and Coastal Youth Theatre of Voices. APCA also conducts African American heritage tours of St. Simons Island. For information visit them online.
Additional information was provided courtesy of the St. Simons African American Heritage Coalition (SSAAHC). Founded in 2000, its mission is "to educate, preserve, and revitalize African American heritage and culture." SSAAHC sponsors and is engaged in several activities including the annual Georgia Sea Islands Festival, and the preservation and restoration of the historic Harrington Graded School. SSAAHC also offers African American heritage tours and other community outreach programs. For information, visit their website.
These highlights are by no means intended to fully represent that complete scope of African American cultural heritage in Brunswick and The Golden Isles of Georgia. If you have information regarding the black history and heritage of Brunswick, St. Simons Island, Jekyll Island, Sea Island or Little St. Simons Island, please contact the Convention and Visitors Bureau at 912-265-0620, or send an email to psaylor@ComeCoastAwhile.com so that future information on the topic may be more complete.
View African American heritage sites in Brunswick and The Golden Isles of Georgia in a larger map