Event to celebrate Gullah Geechee and African American culture on St. Simons Island

A one room schoolhouse
Built in the 1920s, the Historical Harrington School served as the main educational structure for three African American communities on St. Simons Island. Photo by Christopher Ian Smith

ST. SIMONS ISLAND — The latest work in a multiyear project by a Mercer University professor and her students to preserve Gullah Geechee and African American heritage and heritage sites in Coastal Georgia will be showcased 2-4 p.m. May 20 in Nalls Auditorium at Epworth by the Sea. The program is free and open to the public. 

Wade in the Water: Gullah Geechee and African American Life and Culture on St. Simons Island is a program of digital stories based on interviews conducted by Mercer students in collaboration with the St. Simons African American Heritage Coalition. There also will be a live musical performance by the Washington Revels Jubilee Voices. 

The Washington Revels Jubilee Voices is an ensemble committed to the preservation of African American history and traditions through songs and stories of struggle and perseverance, trials and triumphs, as expressed through a cappella music, drama and dance.  

Since 2010, the group has performed regularly at heritage sites throughout the Washington, D.C., area, singing, sharing and learning the stories of the people in those communities. In addition to music, the ensemble also explores poetry and writings, along with first- and third-person portrayals of African Americans whose stories are a vital contribution to American history. 

Dr. Melanie Pavich, associate professor of history and interdisciplinary studies in Mercer’s College of Professional Advancement, has received three grants for the nine-plus-year research-based service-learning project from Georgia Humanities, in partnership with the Georgia Department of Economic Development, through funding from the Georgia General Assembly. 

Dr. Pavich earned her undergraduate degree in history from Agnes Scott College, her master’s degree in history from Clemson University and her Ph.D. in social foundations of education from the University of Georgia. 

Her research is focused on race and gender in the South during the 19th and early 20th centuries and includes the study of African American education and teachers. She has developed research- and service-learning-based courses for undergraduate students centered on the study of Gullah Geechee and African American communities and schools in Georgia.  

She is the author of Anna: The Letters of a St. Simons Island Plantation Mistress, 1817-1859, published by the University of Georgia Press, and is currently working on a biography of Martha Schofield, a teacher of African Americans in South Carolina from 1865 to 1916. 

About the College of Professional Advancement   

Mercer University’s College of Professional Advancement is committed to serving post-traditional learners. Undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs are offered to adult learners seeking professional advancement into leadership roles in and beyond their communities. Programs provide students with distinctive, multidisciplinary experiences that integrate theory and practice. In addition to providing general education and elective courses for various colleges and schools at Mercer, the College of Professional Advancement offers degree programs in areas including technology, public safety, public and human services, leadership and administration, health care and liberal arts. Programs are offered on Mercer’s campuses in Atlanta and Macon, as well as Regional Academic Centers in Douglas County and Henry County, and online. To learn more, visit professionaladvancement.mercer.edu.  

About Mercer University   

Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. With approximately 9,000 students enrolled in 12 schools and colleges, on major campuses in Macon and Atlanta; medical school sites in Macon, Savannah and Columbus; and at regional academic centers in Henry and Douglas counties, Mercer is ranked among the top tier of national research universities by U.S. News & World Report. The Mercer Health Sciences Center includes the University’s School of Medicine and Colleges of Nursing, Health Professions and Pharmacy. Mercer is affiliated with five teaching hospitals – Atrium Health Navicent The Medical Center and Piedmont Macon Medical Center in Macon; Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah; and Piedmont Columbus Regional Hospital and St. Francis-Emory Healthcare in Columbus. The University also has an educational partnership with Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins. It operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer Medicine, the clinical faculty practice of the School of Medicine, is based in Macon and operates additional clinics in Sumter, Peach, Clay, Putnam and Harris counties. Mercer is one of only 293 institutions nationwide to shelter a chapter of The Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s most prestigious academic honor society; one of eight institutions to hold membership in the Georgia Research Alliance; and the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit mercer.edu.