In the state of Georgia, the city of Savannah is steeped in history. Yet this seaport city is also surprisingly cosmopolitan. Aware that lots of people visit each day, to learn about the era when cotton was king and fortunes were made, I wanted to see Savannah from a different perspective…that of a descendant of Negro slaves.
Since my ancestors were long ago brought to Savannah and places like it against their will, I wanted to walk the same sandy shores. I wanted to pick my way down cobblestone streets where today, everywhere one looks there is evidence of the American confederacy. However, in this semi-tropical atmosphere, there is so much more.
In this, one of the South's most intriguing cities, the Historic District is more than 275 years old. Here I casually strolled about, touring Savannah mansions. I saw antebellum splendor, and carefully restored rooms appearing much like they did in the 1800’s. There were also in-tact slave's quarters, dumb waiters, hidden butler's pantries and staircases -- by which Negro slaves once soundlessly traveled throughout these stately homes.
I photographed elegant parterre gardens, and visited one of the oldest public art museums in the South. However, what I was most interested in were the Gullah people whose traditions date back to African-American slavery days. In my mysteriously thrilling novel entitled Exodus I wrote about these African-Americans who reside in the Lowcountry, the region between South Carolina and Georgia which includes the Sea Islands. While strolling about, I was again reminded that the Gullah people have preserved their linguistic and cultural African heritage. In quaint areas crammed with charming shops, theatres, and art galleries, these gracious dark-skinned people yet speak the old, hauntingly beautiful, lilting language. In semi-tropical heat, where many sit amongst flowers on second-story black iron balconies, Gullah people hawk their wares. They sell things like jewelry, fabric, food: yucca and snapper, and traditional woven baskets.
Leaving them, I visited one historic site in particular, the remains of the Wormsloe colonial estate. Part of this historic plantation -- that has long since returned to longleaf pine forest -- now belongs to state of Georgia. However, just walking the avenue of oaks, one and a half miles long, beneath a canopy of leaves and hanging Spanish moss was surreal.
Ethnic beauties, there is so much I could tell you about sultry Savannah and the surrounding isles. I could mention Cultural Centers. I could suggest appearing each February when Savannah hosts the Black Heritage Festival. I could mention attending services at the oldest African American congregation that was once a stop on the Underground Railroad. I’d also love to tell you about human guides who tote gas lanterns while wearing period costumes. These people will take you on an evening exploration of the shadowy and the sinister. If I had time, I'd tell you about Savannah’s pirates, and battles, but I won't. I will simply mention the array of delectable dining options; fresh caught seafood, and old-time soul food, fried crispy, along with platters of fresh greens, and Georgia peaches so ripe and sweet, their juice drips downward. I could mention riverboat cruises, or the ocean’s call, and sunbathing and swimming on miles of unspoiled sandy beaches. I could mention pelicans, dolphins, and the first South Atlantic Coast lighthouse...
However, I will simply suggest a trip. Then you can see for yourself why families, lovers, and others, visit sun-baked Savannah the cauldron of culture and the surrounding lowcountry where there is much to see and do.