By Luana M. Graves Sellars

In 2006, the United States government took the extraordinary step of recognizing with an act of Congress the contributions made by the Gullah people to America. This act acknowledged the 400-year history of the Gullah/Geechee people who lived in Mitchelville and along 79 coastal Sea Islands from North Carolina to Florida. The national recognition of the Gullah/Geechee Corridor, as well as Mitchelville’s inclusion as a member of the National Network of Freedom takes on another significant level of importance as people nationwide are doing research on their ancestral histories. It is even more important to preserve the history of Mitchelville and the story of the Gullah people who made it a success, because of the renewed interest in ancestry. Being a part of the National Network of Freedom is an incredible opportunity for Hilton Head for a variety of reasons. One important reason is that it makes Hilton Head’s historical value an even greater part of the American story. Tourists would be drawn to the island both because of its historic significance and its value as a resort destination.

Not only is the National Network of Freedman an important part of Mitchelville’s future, but “is it the only project that can unite all types of people on Hilton Head Island because it is part of America’s story, not just the story about the black residents who live on Hilton Head. We are very passionate about making sure that the Mitchelville story is told on a local and national level,” says Shirley Peterson, chairman of the Mitchelville Preservation Project board of directors. “We know that the Mitchelville Preservation Project can become of interest to the cultural tourist, who is just as important as a leisure tourist. We need to increase our investment in the economic value that Mitchelville can bring to the island. I believe that when a story is well told, people nationally will become as passionate as we are about Mitchelville. Cultural tourism is becoming a growing economic factor in America and Mitchelville is a strong piece of America’s history that needs to be shared.” 

To help share that history, the Mitchelville Preservation Project has several initiatives, events and fundraising opportunities planned throughout the year that will aid in telling their story as well as making the park more viable.

The preservation of all of America’s heritage is an important step in not only understanding our past but also having a point of reference to learn from our mistakes so we can make a better future. Mitchelville has the potential to offer a fabulous education for us all. Historic sites are being carefully preserved, and children and adults will benefit from all of the artifacts and information that has been gathered over the years to tell this very important story.

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