From Friday May 31, 2019 – Saturday June 1, 2019, VisitBlackHistory.com spent time exploring the Georgia Sea Islands.
We began our journey at the Taste of Gullah, hosted by the Saint Simons African American Heritage Coalition. The inaugural event was held in the Historic Harrington School’s outdoor area. We toured the schoolhouse museum, which has been restored and now functions as a culture keeper of both the school’s history and the history of the Gullah Geechee community.
On Saturday we attended the 43rd Annual Georgia Sea Islands Festival. The festival, also hosted by Saint Simons African American Heritage Coalition, was held at Gascoigne Bluff Park. The main stage featured an array of cultural expressions, including a literary reading by author Tina McElroy Ansa. There were several vendors selling food, shirts, books, and other memorabilia. The National Park Service Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor was even on hand to distribute free literature and small trinkets.
After a bit of time, we decided to set out and explore the neighboring Georgia Sea Islands. We stopped in the Golden Isles Welcome Center on St. Simons Island and picked up a copy of the Golden Isles Visitor Guide. In it, we found an article entitled “How Tradition Took Root: The Golden Isles’ African-American Heritage, which detailed African American heritage sites located in Brunswick and on St. Simons and Jekyll Islands.
We decided “The Wanderer Memorial” on Jekyll Island would be our next destination. The Wanderer Memorial is an interactive trail located at St. Andrews Park on Jekyll Island. A large metal sculpture in the St. Andrews Park picnic area was the original memorial dedicated to survivors of the Wanderer, which some historians believe was the last known slave ship to land in the United States. Jekyll Island Authority’s Marketing Communications Manager, John Bennett shared, “when the original metal structure began to wear from the salt air, the Jekyll Island Authority Historic Resources department collaborated with historians and survivors’ descendants to expand the memorial from a single sculpture to an interactive trail for all ages. The Wanderer Memory Trail offers a deeper understanding of the lasting contributions and impacts of the Wanderer survivors.”
Dr. Deborah Mack, Office of Strategic Partnerships National Museum of African American History & Culture Smithsonian Institution, Melissa Jest, African American Programs Coordinator Georgia Historic Preservation Division (SHPO), Christine King Mitchell, Old Slave Mart Museum (Charleston, SC), Dr. Althea Natlaga Sumter, Federal Commissioner Gullah Geechee Heritage Corridor Commission, Velma Maia Thomas, Andrea Marroquin, Curator for the Jekyll Island Authority, Bruce Piatek, Director of Historic Resources for the Jekyll Island Authority, Curt Bowman, Exhibit Designer, and Brian Beauchamp.
The Wanderer Memory Trail was designed by Curtis Bowman of the Hughes Bowman Design Group, which is based out of Richmond, Virginia. Installation of the exhibit required collaboration between several local agencies, including the JIA Conservation, Landscape, Facilities, and Historic Resources departments.
The memorial unveiling took place on Saturday, November 17, 2018. Griffin Lotson and Althea Natalga Sumter of the Gullah Geechee Heritage Corridor Commission were among those in attendance.
The Wanderer Memory Trail is open daily to the public. Free. Located at St. Andrews Beach Park, Jekyll Island, GA 31527. For more information log onto https://www.jekyllisland.com/history/wanderer-memory-trail/