Crossing the Moss Line Back Story

            The bumper sticker on the pickup said, “Proud Saltwater Geechee.”

In a way, those three words sum up the history of the Geechee people who were brought to the Georgia barrier islands in the 1800s and whose descendants still live there today. Because of the relative isolation of the islands, they preserved much of their African language, culture and religion.


Colonial planters specified Africans from regions like Sierra Leone because they knew how to build the irrigation dams and earthworks needed to grow rice. Today there are fewer than 50 descendants of the original Geechee people still living on Sapelo Island. Unfortunately tax hikes, lack of jobs and development are endangering the last Geechee community.


However, in the 1940s, when the story of Crossing the Moss Line takes place, there was a thriving community on the fictitious Ibo Island. I chose the name because of a story about a group of Africans from the Ibo tribe who jumped overboard and drowned rather than become slaves.


Today many festivals celebrate the proud heritage of the Geechee people along the Georgia coast and the Gullah people along the Carolinas.


Grace Hawthorne


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