Sistah Patt’ shares powerful stories from her ancestors as she walks the streets of Savannah, a key port of entry for slaves in the United States. She is a ‘master storyteller’ and The Gullah Geechee walking tours she hosts bring a culture and a crucial part of history to life that is not often discussed.
Gullah Geechee at its heart is a vibrant culture, native to the 4-state federal ‘Gullah Geechee Corridor’ spanning from North Carolina to northern Florida. A language, a flavourful cuisine, a style of craft and weaving, and even a people. The Gullah culture was brought to America in the 1700s to 1800s by enslaved Africans, who built on their deep connection with the heritage of their homeland that still lives on today. Gullah is a beautifully intact cultural identity woven deeply into the fabric of the city’s story and ‘Sistah Patt’ brings its origins to the forefront.
She guides people along Factors Walk where ‘Cotton was King’, and cotton merchants (called factors) used to sell and trade. She points out the city’s three whipping stations and heads up to Bay Street, where the first slaves in America were freed.
‘Those are not cobble stones, those are ballast stones that have come out of slave-ships.’
‘Sistah Patt’ created these tours to provide an opportunity for locals and visitors to reflect on the atrocities of slavery during the Antebellum circa (1758-1864). Gunn takes her ‘passengers’ on a journey; “It is important to acknowledge it happened, take it all in and embrace the four tools — truth, reconciliation, healing and repair” says Patt proudly; TEDx speaker and CEO of Underground Tours of Savannah and the founder of The Saltwata Players, a local folk art performance group.
Dr. Amir Jamal Touré, resident historian and professor, has also worked tirelessly to keep Gullah culture strong and vibrant. He is exceptionally proud of The Geechee Kunda Cultural Center in Riceboro as one of the only museums dedicated to Gullah culture and African history in the Americas. “It provides a gathering place for the rich heritage and a place to empower and guide people on their journeys. We plant the seeds of history so people can learn from the struggles and the triumphs of the Gullah people”, says Dr. Touré, who also runs his own tour company, Day Clean Journeys.
It is important to acknowledge it happened, take it all in and embrace the four tools — truth, reconciliation, healing and repair.
The pair see more and more people interested in learning about African-American history and how it’s still impacting people today, demonstrated most recently with the Black Lives Matter movement. Savannah is one of the most beautiful cities in the US, and walking from square to square with a local guide is the absolute best way to experience the city. You can even do so sipping on a mint julep (Savannah is one of the few U.S. cities that allows drinking in public places).
Our Suggestions When in Savannah:
Visit the Penn Center on
St. Helena, the first school
in America for freed slaves
which later became a base
for Martin Luther King.
The Drayton Hotel, a boutique property in the Spanish district with a romantic rooftop bar.
Gullah Grub on St. Helena — a white clapboard house, restaurant and cooking school for kids run by husband and wife team, Bill and Sara.
Artillery, an opulent and gilded landmark of the city. Try the Fire & Ice with mezcal, tequila, lime, creole shrub and shishito pepper.