What do you know about Gullah?

So how did you do on yesterday’s quiz? Spoiler alert: below are the answers. Look at yesterday’s post if still want to take the quiz before seeing the answers.

1.What language do the Gullah still speak today?
The Gullah language is a Creole blend of Elizabethan English and native tongues with its own grammar and vocabulary that originated on the coast of Africa and came across the Atlantic on slave ships. As many as 20 percent of the words are West African, and many more were made understandable because of the fact that Gullah is a language of cadence, accents, and intonations.Today, more than 300,000 Gullah-speaking people live on the Sea Islands.

2. How have the Gullah been able to keep their language and their traditions in tact?
Thanks to their solidarity and relative isolation, the Gullah people were able to keep their language and traditions intact. The initial cause of this isolation was the African slaves’ hereditary resistance to diseases like malaria and yellow fever, which thrived on the rice plantations of the swampy coastal plains of Georgia and South Carolina, and their masters’ susceptibility to these diseases. As a result, white planters left their farms during the summer and autumn months, and slaves had little contact with whites on a day-to-day basis.

3. Have Gullah influences found their way into mainstream culture?
Of course! Many Gullah words and traditions have quietly found their way into mainstream culture. Among them are the spiritual “Kumbaya,” which means “come by here,” foods like hoppin’ john, sweet potato pie, and benne wafers, and English words as varied as gorilla, zebra, banana, okra, bogus, hippie, jamboree, sock, tote, and banjo. Even the word doggies in the quintessentially American cowboy song “Get Along Little Doggies” comes from kidogo, an African word meaning “a little something” or “something small.”

4. Although the Gullah are Christian, their beliefs deviate in one important aspect. What is it?
Sea Islanders believe that when a person dies, his soul returns to God but his “spirit” stays on earth and carries on its day-to-day routine. It is the job of the living to see to it that these spirits are well cared for. One tradition is to decorate the grave of the deceased with the last articles that person used, such as bottles, pots, or medicines, each item purposely broken or rendered useless in order to symbolize the end of earthly things. This is common among people of central Africa, who historically honored the dead by placing valuable furniture, jewelry, and paintings on graves.

5. What is a “basket name”?
Most Gullah-speaking people have an English name, to be used in school and with strangers, and a nickname, or “basket name,” typically of African origin. The basket name might be inspired by the season, month, day of the week, or time of the child’s birth; the conditions of the baby’s birth or the baby’s appearance at birth; or monarchs, places, animals, or even occupations.

For more fascinating facts about the Gullah people, check out this What do you know about Gullah? trivia sheet.


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