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Summer Professional Development: Mr. Orf Gets Acquainted With Gullah Culture

Tyler Orf

Many Priory faculty members set aside part of the summer to participate in professional development and enrichment activities. In the first few Rebel News issues of the year, we’ll feature a few of the programs our faculty undertook over the last few months.

Social studies teacher Tyler Orf was one of 70 teachers selected from across the country to participate in the National Endowment for the Humanities “Gullah Voices” program, one of their Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshops.

Group photo

Gullah Voices was a weeklong set of activities and presentations based in Savannah, Georgia. The Gullah people are descendants of slaves who settled in the lowlands and on the islands along the coast of South Carolina and Georgia after the Civil War. The teachers in the program examined the Gullah culture, language, art and history that have sparked a renewed interest in the last 50-60 years, and they visited a series of historic sites in the region.

In addition to the site visits and presentations, the participating teachers worked together on projects and discussed ways of applying what they learned in their classrooms. Tyler says he brought back valuable insights and interesting facts that will be useful in his World and European History courses when discussing the slave trade and historic marginalization of African-American people. For example, rice was a staple crop in the South before cotton, but most Southern farmers didn’t know how to cultivate rice on their own. “The slaves were brought over, and actually taught the farmers how to grow the rice and build the infrastructure and irrigation systems they needed to make it work,” he said. “You can still see the systems in place in aerial photos.”

Hog HammockAmong the sites the teachers visited were the Penn Center, one of the first schools in the nation for freed slaves and an important center of activity in the Civil Rights Movement, and Hog Hammock, Georgia, one of the last surviving towns where slaves stayed after the Civil War. In Hog Hammock, the group was able to talk to Cornelia Walker Baily, a resident who wrote a memoir they’d read prior to their visit.

For more information about Gullah Voices, the presenters and artists involved, and the historic sites that were part of the program, you can visit the NEH website.

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