Congressman Clyburn Introduces Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Act

Jul 12, 2004

(Washington, DC) - House Democratic Caucus Vice Chair James E. Clyburn has introduced the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Act aimed at preserving this endangered culture found in the coastal counties of Georgia and South Carolina.  This bill, H.R. 4683, grew out of a National Park Service cultural preservation study Congressman Clyburn gained Congressional approval to conduct, which was released in May.

"The study confirmed that extraordinary steps must be taken to preserve this rich and vibrant culture that is rapidly disappearing," Congressman Clyburn said.  "I felt the need to act on the Park Service's recommendations quickly so we can begin their implementation before the Gullah/Geechee culture becomes more endangered." 

The National Trust of Historic Preservation named the Gullah/Geechee coast as one of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Sites in America because they fear encroachment on these communities will result in the extinction of the culture, its language and customs.

Congressman Clyburn's initiative would establish a Gullah/Geechee Culture Heritage Corridor and create a commission to help Federal, State, and local authorities manage the Corridor and its assets.  To fund this effort, the legislation authorizes $1 million in annual funding over 10 years for the project.  In addition, the bill calls for one or more Coastal Heritage Centers at appropriate locations within the Heritage Corridor.

Congressman Clyburn is a tireless and nationally recognized advocate for historic preservation.  He is the recipient of the Griot Award from the National Association for African-American Heritage Preservation, the Triangle Award from the Southeast Region African American Preservation Alliance, and the Preserving Our Treasures Award from the South Carolina African American Heritage Council. 

"As a former history teacher, I am committed to insuring that our historic treasures remain for future generations.  That is especially true of African American heritage, because so many of our historic and culturally significant sites and treasures have been lost," Congressman Clyburn continued.  "The Gullah/Geechee culture is the last vestige of the fusion of African and European languages and traditions brought to these coastal areas.  I cannot sit idly by and watch an entire culture disappear that represents my heritage and the heritage of those that look like me."

Congressman Clyburn has also been a vocal champion of heritage tourism. 

"The growth of heritage tourism in South Carolina has outpaced traditional tourism growth by 83%," Congressman Clyburn concluded. "Establishing a Gullah/Geechee Heritage Corridor will serve to preserve the culture while tapping into the growing interest in heritage tourism."

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