Gullah Culture: Background information when reading Some Sing, Some Cry

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Some Sing, Some Cry

A Novel

by Ntozake Shange, Ifa Bayeza

Some Sing, Some Cry by Ntozake Shange, Ifa Bayeza X
Some Sing, Some Cry by Ntozake Shange, Ifa Bayeza
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 2010, 576 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2011, 576 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Karen Rigby

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book:
Gullah Culture

Print Review

The Gullah (known as Geechee in Georgia and Florida) are descendants of West African slaves, whose numbers today range from 200,000-500,000. The Gullah region traditionally extends along the coast from SE North Carolina, through Georgia to Northern Florida, including the Lowcountry region and its Sea Islands (see map at bottom left).

Geographic isolation, a marshy, malarial environment that often led to absentee plantation owners, and the fostering of close community ties allowed a distinct creole culture to develop. After the Civil War and emancipation, the Gullah's isolation increased as few outsiders were attracted to the area, and labor issues and a series of devastating hurricanes caused rice planters to abandon their farms. Thus, the Gullah were left alone to practice their traditional culture with little influence from the outside world well into the 20th century (the first bridges from the islands to the mainland were not built until the 1950s). As a result, the Gullah are known for preserving more of their African linguistic and cultural heritage than any other African-American community in the United States.

The Gullah language, which linguists consider as a separate language rather than a dialect of English, draws from African dialects as well as 17th-18th century English. Gullah is heard increasingly rarely, but determined groups in the community are working to preserve the language. The Gullah are also defending their land rights and achieved a victory in 2006 when the U.S. Congress passed the "Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Act" that provides $10 million over ten years for the preservation and interpretation of historic sites relating to Gullah culture.

In the words of Sam Gadsen (b. 1882, quoted in a study by the National Park Service), "If you get the full Gullah, it's a song language. That's the deep Gullah. It is a song language and not a deaf language like English. The speaker of a song language doesn't mean exactly just the words alone, but when he has once spoken them, he really couldn't have said it any better. If you catch the song, you can tell exactly what he means."

Other notable features of the culture include crafts, such as quilting and coiled basketry made from sweetgrass, music, as well as a renewed interest in the performing arts. The Gullah culture has extended to urban areas such as Charleston and Savannah and also farther afield to New York where the Gullah have their own neighborhood churches in Harlem, Brooklyn, and Queens.

Did you know?

  • George Gershwin's folk opera, Porgy and Bess, based on a novel by DuBose Heyward, was partly inspired by the region.
  • It was also in this region that General Sherman unveiled the "Forty Acres and a Mule" policy in 1865, which was later repealed by President Andrew Johnson.
  • Notable public figures with Gullah backgrounds include Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Marquetta L. Goodwine (also known as Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gulllah/Geechee Nation), James Brown and Michelle Obama.

Interesting Links

Map of Gullah region

A map of the Gullah region. Click the image for a close up
of a different map showing the South Carolina Sea Islands in detail.

Interesting Link: CNN Dec 10, 2012

Article by Karen Rigby

This article was originally published in October 2010, and has been updated for the October 2011 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access, become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Only Child
    Only Child
    by Rhiannon Navin
    Rhiannon Navin's debut novel, Only Child received an overall score of 4.8 out of 5 from BookBrowse ...
  • Book Jacket: Brass
    Brass
    by Xhenet Aliu
    In 1996, Waterbury, Connecticut is a town of abandoned brass mills. Eighteen-year-old Elsie ...
  • Book Jacket: Timekeepers
    Timekeepers
    by Simon Garfield
    If you can spare three minutes and 57 seconds, you can hear the driving, horse-gallop beat of Sade&#...
  • Book Jacket: How to Stop Time
    How to Stop Time
    by Matt Haig
    Tom Hazard, the protagonist of How to Stop Time, is afflicted with a condition of semi-immortality ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

A nuanced portrait of war, and of three women haunted by the past and the secrets they hold.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The French Girl
    by Lexie Elliott

    An exhilarating debut psychological suspense novel for fans of Fiona Barton and Ruth Ware.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Only Child
    by Rhiannon Navin

    A dazzling, tenderhearted debut about healing, family, and the exquisite wisdom of children.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Beartown

Now in Paperback!

From the author of a A Man Called Ove, a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T I M A Slip B C A L

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.