“ In the Sea Islands they would keep all-night vigil, singing, praying, and preaching around the bedside of the dying. This was supposed to strengthen the person as they passed death’s door. When the person died, they would immediately begin shouting over the body. The loud shrieks were made as the last breath was breathed, as it was believed hat loud shrieking scared off the spirits of hell who were always lurking around to get possession of another soul.”[vi]
After death, the rite of burial and maintenance of the gravesite was extremely important to the Gullah. In the Sea Islands, when a person died, the possessions of the dead were placed on top of their grave. Holloway quoted a Gullah who said: “tat dis wuz de way dey bury dem in Africa…Dey use tuh put duh tings a pusson use las on duh grabe. Dis wuz suppose tuh satisfy duh spirit and keep ir frum follin yuh back tuh tuh house.”[vii] We see the importance of the community graveyard in Daughters of the Dust as several scenes include the graveyard.
I must add to this Blog a personal note: The Island of Edisto and Pawleys Island are probably my favorite places on the planet. My family vacations on the beach there in the summer. I have visited the rice plantations, and a few of the vacation homes and retreats that still have detatched slave quarters and have survived hurricane Hugo, which devastated the area in 1989. There is a quiet but powerfully strong presence about these islands that I have never been able to adequatley articulate. I can almost feel the presence of a mournful, soulful past. During our annual stay, every member of my family (including the children) seem to find a quiet moment here or there to stop, reflect and think. Maybe it is the heat (which can be downright oppressive), maybe it is the sleepy inlet, with its reeds and ripples, blue crabs, and magical sunsets, or maybe it is the warm, humid breeze that continuously blows. There is just something magic about these islands. It is different than nearby Charleston (which has it's own interesting haunts and history), and a world away from places like Myrtle Beach or Hilton Head. If you have a chance, go and visit.
This house was built on 10 acres of beach land by the laBruce family who were successful rice planters in this area of All Saints Parish. Two small dwellings on the property were slave cabins. The residence was purchased by Calhoun Lemon of Barnwell, SC in 1952 and still remains in this family. Additions have been made to the house through the years.
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