This week we sit down with Eric Crawford, author of Gullah Spirituals: The Sound of Freedom and Protest in the South Carolina Sea Islands. Crawford is the director of the Charles W. Joyner Institute for Gullah and African Diaspora Studies at Coastal Carolina University. He graduated from the Catholic University of America and holds a Ph.D. in musicology. Crawford’s Gullah Spirituals paints the Gullah Geechee songs from their early beginning in West Africa to their arrival in the southern United States. He emphasizes the height of the songs standing for Black identity and social change during the twentieth century in America.
Crawford brings on some special guests, the St. Helena Spiritual Singers, to perform the soulful and traditional Gullah Geechee songs for us. Their performance sparks notes of heartache and inspiration on set as we listened to their traditional oral storytelling. We hear about Crawford’s journey through the ancestry of the Civil Rights Movement and the spirituals and history of the Sea Islands. He brings up the realization that not many people have talked about the Gullah Geechee songs and culture and their impact throughout the Civil War Era. As we listened to Crawford trace back his field work from his book, we couldn’t help but find ourselves entranced on the journey that helped inspire his need to bring back the lost cultural memory of Gullah Geechee.