When Roots Die: Endangered Traditions on the Sea Islands

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When Roots Die celebrates and preserves the venerable Gullah culture of the sea islands of the South Carolina and Georgia coast. Entering into communities long isolated from the world by a blazing sun and salt marshes, Patricia Jones-Jackson captures the cadence of the storyteller lost in the adventures of "Brer Rabbit," records voices lifted in song or prayer, and describes folkways and beliefs that have endured, through ocean voyage and human bondage, for more than two hundred years.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A remarkable book about the life and language of the Sea Islands."--National Geographic

"Jones-Jackson's sketches of her Wadmalaw Island friends and informants are uniformly rewarding. In a series of gilt-edged portraits, she introduces us to Gullah-speaking men and women whom the twentieth century is crowding out. . . . At the end of this short book, the reader wishes there were more. More tales from the lips of Ted Williams; more sermons from the allusive genius of the Reverend Renty Pickney, who has memorized the Bible; more interviews with fishermen like Daniel Dent, who can call porpoises for miles around."--Natural History

"Jones-Jackson's greatest contribution is her consideration of language. Although, as she insists, written accounts cannot properly capture the vividness and vitality of linguistic expression in a culture that is still basically oral, she comes as close as may be possible to accomplishing that task."--North Carolina Historical Review

"This book is based on fieldwork done for the late Jones-Jackson's dissertation (1978), an ethnography of the Gullah language surviving on the Sea Islands off of the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia . . . Although the subject has previously attracted substantial scholarly attention, Jones-Jackson's work adds greater description and analysis of the performance and social context of the Gullah language and lore. She also provides comparisons drawn from performances that she collected firsthand in Africa . . . The collection she presents-prayers, sermons, and ‘Brer Rabbit and other animal tales-is a rich trove of lore that scholars will appreciate. Students also will appreciate the work because of Jones-Jackson's clear writing."--Choice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780820323930
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/1989
  • Pages: 220
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Patricia Jones-Jackson, an associate professor of English at Howard University, died in 1986 while on assignment for the National Geographic Society on Johns Island, South Carolina. Charles Joyner, author of Down by the Riverside: A South Carolina Slave Community, is Burroughs Distinguished Professor of Southern History and Culture at the University of South Carolina, Coastal College.
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Table of Contents

Foreword ix
In Memoriam xviii
Preface xix
Acknowledgments xxv
Introduction 1
1 The Social History and Organization 4
Social Structure
2 The Folk Literature 32
Oral Presentation
The Setting
The Audience
The Storytellers
3 The Texts 77
The Prayers
A Sermon
Gullah Tales Exemplifying Audience Participation
Three Gullah Tales with African Parallels
4 The Language 132
Present-Day Gullah
Features of Grammar
Conclusion 147
Appendix 1 An Interview: Catching Fish 151
Appendix 2 Buh Rabbit en' de Lawd 156
Appendix 3 Phoentic Text: The Soul and the Spirit 158
Appendix 4 The Land Question 165
Notes 169
Selected Bibliography 179
Index 185
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