Museum seeks to tell Gullah history

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The "Little Blue House" might be small in size but it's huge in historical significance. The one-room cabin at 12 Georgianna Drive (off Gumtree Road) is home to the Gullah Museum of Hilton Head.

Built in 1930 for William "Duey" Simmons, the grandson of a former slave, it showcases Gullah artifacts as part of its mission of reviving, restoring and preserving the culture on the island. A historical marker, bestowed by the National Preservation Honor Award by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, was erected on the site in 2012.

Much of the museum is still under restoration and development, as are two other structures on the property

Louise Miller Cohen, a native islander and founder and director of the nonprofit museum since 2003, has done her part in keeping the Gullah tradition alive with her story-telling, knowledge of music, cuisine, culture, language and rituals. She interprets and describes life on the island before the bridge to the mainland was built in 1956.

Cohen is very proactive in local and regional church, school and civic programs and celebrations. This year, she was among 11 notable Palmetto state residents to be featured in the South Carolina African American History Calendar.

Last year, she received the Community Service Award from the National Civil Rights Library and a Commendation Award from Mayor David Bennett of Hilton Head.

The Gullah culture, a blend of African and English cultures that developed during America's period of slavery, is unique to the Lowcountry South.

Museum tours, conducted by Cohen, are by appointment only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Visit gullahmuseumhhi.org or call 843-681-3254.

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