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Fall Program

To register for this event, see this link:  Fall Membership Meeting.

Gullah Spirituals: Their History and Evolution

On Thursday, November 11, the Society welcomes musicologist Eric Crawford, Ph.D., to discuss the power of Gullah Geechee music at its Fall Program. The lecture will feature stories and music from Crawford’s most recent publication, Gullah Spirituals: The Sound of Freedom and Protest in the South Carolina Sea Islands. The book follows the evolution of songs from West Africa origins to their height as songs for social change and Black identity in the twentieth century American South.

In his presentation, Crawford will describe connections between the music traditions of South Carolina and Georgia. While studying the music of South Carolina’s St. Helena Island, he explored the history of shouting and rowing songs, which retain the strongest links to their West African sources. As noted in Crawford’s book, actress and abolitionist Fanny Kemble, during her visit to Coastal Georgia in the 1830s, recorded the words to a rowing song of the enslaved oarsmen she encountered. Crawford traces the documentation of St. Helena Island’s music to the publication of the first serious study of Gullah music, Slave Songs of the United States, in 1867. The next extensive study came from Coastal Georgia, when Lydia Parrish published Slave Songs of the Georgia Sea Islands in 1942 and included information about West African influences.

Eric Crawford is Director of the Honors Program at Benedict College, Columbia, South Carolina. He holds a Ph.D. in musicology from The Catholic University of America and is the author of numerous books, articles, and accompanying field recordings. Most recently, he appeared in Henry Louis Gates’ miniseries “The Black Church,” and he serves as music consultant for the new Amazon miniseries “The Underground Railroad.”

The program will be held on Thursday, November 11, at 6 p.m. at the St. Simons Presbyterian Church and will also be available via live stream. The lecture is free for Society members, and $10 for non-members. To register for this event, see this link:  Fall Membership Meeting.


November 11
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm


St. Simons Presbyterian Church
205 Kings Way
St. Simons Island, GA 31522 United States