"Daughters of the Dust" recounts the story of the Gullah people (also known as the Geechee people), a distinctive group of Black Americans from South Carolina and Georgia in the southeastern United States. They reside in communities along the Atlantic coastal plain and on the chain of Sea Islands that run parallel to the coast – which is where the movie was filmed. The Gullah people rely on fishing and small farming for sustenance. They were brought to the United States during the slave trade from the West Coast of Africa, however, because of their geographical isolation and strong community life, the Gullah have been able to preserve more of their African cultural heritage than any other group of Black Americans. These strong cultural and ancestral ties are evident in the film through the rituals and mythical objects that the main characters hold dear.
Although the movie is spoken in English, the Gullah people speak a Creole language similar to Sierra Leone Krio. As the movie also depicts, they have maintained their use of African names, tell African folktales and make African style handicrafts, such as baskets.
Being in isolation from the mainland has its advantages and disadvantages. For the Gullah people their main conflict revolved around maintaining their African identity and heritage in the face of crossing over to the mainland. For more information on the time period or additional conflicts in the movie, navigate to the Historical Context or Issue Essay.
Copyright (c) 2001 by Jennifer Puma, Undergraduate at The College of New Jersey.