Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Gullah Gechee Visioning
Although Gullah people now account for only 7% of Hilton Head’s population, prior to the mid-20th century, they were the island’s sole inhabitants. They were brought to the area as enslaved people starting in the late-1600s, and because of their geographic and social isolation on the sea island, they have retained much of their West African culture.
Because their population and culture continue to dwindle, The Walker Collaborative was hired by the Town to develop a strategy to preserve their culture.
The intensive public engagement process included: 1) Several individual and stakeholder focus group meetings; 2) Town hall style meetings with facilitated discussions; and 3) A workshop with real time polling using hand-held clickers and Smartphones.Many of TWC’s recommendations have since been implemented, including the designation of a special overlay district for Gullah neighborhoods to provide greater landowner flexibility.
Interview with WHHI about Hilton Head Visioning Project
PLANNING, American Planning Association • Fall 2021
From land to language, a planning effort on Hilton Head Island seeks to preserve the vanishing culture and history of its native Gullah Geechee residents–and build a better future. Hilton Head Island is most known for its thriving tourism, beach resorts, golf courses, and gated communities. However, as Gullah resident David White said at one of the numerous public engagement activities, “The history of Hilton Head did not start with a nine-hole golf course.”