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Educating, preserving, and revitalizing African American heritage and culture.

SSAAHC is a nonprofit organization that came into being as a response to the threat of encroachment by development in the three African-American neighborhoods on St. Simons Island. SSAAHC is made up of African-American property owners and concerned citizens alike who care about preserving the African-American land, heritage, and culture on St. Simons, recognizing that St. Simons was built on the backs of the African-American community.
As St. Simons continues to grow, pressures from increased land speculation have caused African-American families to sell out and move off the ancestral lands where they have resided for the last 150 years. Sites and structures precious to the history and memory of the community are being torn down and built over. Bit by bit, the African-American heritage on St. Simons is being erased and African-American islanders are leaving the very community their ancestors made possible.

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100 Years Celebration

52 Weeks of Stories, People, Facts, and Events Celebrating Our African American Heritage Roots and Community from Freedom through Civil Rights

In 1924 Historic Harrington Graded School was built by African American tradesman for the education of their children and grandchildren. Today, 100 years later, this one-room schoolhouse on St. Simons Island, GA is still a place of learning and a community cultural center where residents, schoolchildren, and visitors can learn about Gullah Geechee heritage. As part of the 100 th anniversary of the Harrington School we will publish once a week on our website a short paragraph about a person, fact, or event that enriches our knowledge of coastal African American history. The stories will follow twelve monthly themes:

  • JANUARY
    FOOD

    Recipes, Cooks, Farms, Restaurants, Seafood, Hunting, Fishing

  • FEBRUARY
    COMMUNITY and NEIGHBORHOOD

    Families Social, Churches, Sororities, Fraternities, Mutual Aid Societies

  • MARCH
    SPORTS

    Risley HS Sports, Recreation, Selden Park, Informal Games, Schoolyard

  • APRIL
    CULTURE

    Defender Newspapers, Gullah Geechee, Fashion, Writings

  • MAY
    MILITARY SERVICE

    All branches, FLETC, Police, Law Enforcement, Airport

  • JUNE
    MUSIC

    Juke joints, Chitlin Circuit, Sea Island Festival, Bands, American Folklife

  • JULY
    CIVIL RIGHTS

    Segregation, Voting Rights, NAACP, Black Wall Street

  • AUGUST
    PRESERVING AFRICAN AMERICAN HERITAGE

    Buildings, Family History, Cemeteries, Organizations, Success, Challenges

  • SEPTEMBER
    EDUCATION

    Schools, Teachers, Lessons Taught at Home

  • OCTOBER
    JOBS & ECONOMICS

    Freedman Bank, Factory, Sawmills, Stevedores. Landscape, Housekeeping, Law, Medical, Tradesmen, Seamstresses, Construction, Segregated Businesses

  • NOVEMBER
    STORYTELLING

    Symposium, Folk Tales, StoryCorps, Thanksgiving Oral Histories

  • DECEMBER
    CONNECTIONS

    Northern Migration, Ports, Foodways, Gullah Geechee language, Tourism, Railroads, Come back

Some of the stories will be familiar. Others we hope will talk about unsung heroes, forgotten events in history, or facts you feel should be remembered and shared when celebrating our African American roots and community.

Thank you for helping us make sure these stories have their place in history. Do you have memories to add? Please share with us. We welcome your additions to these 52 weeks. Patty Deveau (Email) and Allison Dupuis (Email)

Additional special events and programs will be held throughout the year. To learn more, sign up for email announcements at harringtonschool@ssiheritagecoalition.org, or call 912-634-0330.

Week 5 – COMMUNITIES – Introduction

African American communities in coastal Georgia were settled for land, labor, and legacy. St. Simons Island’s Harrington and South End were settled by families descended from those enslaved on the Couper, Butler, Retreat, and Gould plantations. Harris Neck and Hogg Hammock likewise began with freedmen from nearby plantations. Jewtown on St. Simons Island, Dixville, and ARCO on Brunswick were built for workers at nearby factories, mills, or docks.

The community consisted of related families, a church, a small grocery, a barber shop, a school, a juke joint, a café, maybe a gas station. An African American community was the basis of the proverbial “It takes a village to raise a child” often illustrated when your mama and daddy knew what you had done before you got home. “Because there was so much family there, a whole community of people who cared about each other. See, that was my foundation. I’d hate to have come up without that.” said South End native Jim Brown. “A person’s life depends on foundation,” said Emory Rooks. His community Harrington, like others, “had a good foundation.” Emory Rooks.

Over time, the legacy of community shrank because of pressure by developers, by government coercion, or by difficulties caused by heirs property. Changing economies, the beginning and the end of world wars, and the closing of factories disrupted communities. When younger generations moved away and higher taxes went unpaid or properties were sold, African Americans communities lost that foundation that had supported them for centuries. Family members came back annually for a church homecoming, family reunion, or for funerals. A few moved back, but the community was dissolved.

“We were [becoming] forgotten communities.” said Eloise Spears of Harrington. In the last few years, however, Mrs. Spears said, “We are finally starting to work on our heritage” pointing to organizations like St Simons African American Heritage Coalition (SSAAHC), the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, and the federal Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor (www.gullahgeecheecorridor.org.)

This February for Black History Month we will look at three communities on St. Simons Island; three communities founded by work, and the mutual aid societies that historically and currently provided a foundation for African Americans.

Sources: Gullah Geechee in the Golden Isles (Lotson and Holladay). Interviews by Mercer University students of Dr. Melanie Pavich.