AP PHOTOS: Slave descendants' community dwindling

Associated Press
Stephen Wilson, 68, walks onto the front porch of his home that his father built in the Hog Hammock community of Sapelo Island, Ga. on Wednesday, May 15, 2013. "Dad built this house with his labor. Every time I put the key in the door, I remember coming home as a child saying, 'Hi, papa. Hi, mama.' It has a lot of remembrance." Wilson is one of roughly 47 residents, most of them descendants of West African slaves known as Geechee, who remain on the coastal Georgia island where their ancestors were brought to work a plantation in the early 1800s. Isolated over time to the Southeast's barrier islands, the Geechee of Georgia and Florida, otherwise known as Gullah in the Carolinas, have retained their African traditions more than other African American communities in the U.S. Once freed, the slaves were able to acquire land and created settlements on the island, of which only the tiny 464-acre Hog Hammock community still exists. Eight children catch a ferry every morning to attend school on the mainland since the last school operating on the island closed in 1978. Residents say a sudden tax hike, lack of jobs, and development is endangering one of the last remaining Geechee communities from Florida to North Carolina. (AP Photo/David Goldman) PART OF A 35-PICTURE ESSAY BY DAVID GOLDMAN
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SAPELO ISLAND, Ga. (AP) — Sharron Grovner stands in the backyard of her home that faces this island's fecund saltwater marshes. The setting sun gives way to the stillness of evening, and the only sound one can hear are the ocean waves lapping against the shore.

These are the same shores where generations ago, Grovner's ancestors landed as slaves brought over to work a cotton plantation. They are the same shores where today the remaining descendants still fish for their dinner. They're the shores where ferries now embark to the mainland carrying hopes of employment while leaving behind a dwindling community.

Grovner is one of only 47 residents, most of them descendants of those West African slaves known as Geechee, who remain on Sapelo Island; their ancestors were brought to work the plantation of Thomas Spaulding in the early 1800s. Isolated over time to the Southeast's barrier islands, the Geechee of Georgia and Florida, also known as Gullah in the Carolinas, have retained their African traditions more than many other African American communities in the U.S.

Once freed, the ex-slaves were able to acquire land and created settlements on Sapelo Island, of which only the tiny 464-acre Hog Hammock community still exists. Residents say a sudden tax hike, lack of jobs, and development are endangering one of the last remaining Geechee/Gullah communities dotting the coast from Florida to North Carolina.

Here's a gallery of images from Sapelo Island.

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