The Coastal Isles and the Okefenokee Feature

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The Geechee, a Culture Apart

Georgia's Geechee, like the Gullah people of South Carolina, are descendants of African slaves who have preserved a distinct culture and language, in large part due to the isolation of the remote coastal areas, such as Sapelo Island, where they live.

The Geechee take their name from the Ogeechee River in north coastal Georgia. Geechee ancestry includes a variety of African tribes, but is particularly marked by the language and traditions of slaves from Sierra Leone, who were brought to work the vast coastal plantations because of their expertise in rice cultivation. Their native tongue, Krio, is still evident in the Geechee language of the region today: tief/tif (steal), ooman/uman (woman), and enty/enti (isn't it so?) are just a few of the easily recognizable words that are similar in Geechee and Krio, respectively. The two languages share similar sentence structures and grammatical elements as well. Geechee, not English, was the first language of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who was born and raised in Savannah.

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