Event Title

Clothing as Identity and Resistance: A Case Study of Women's Sunday Dress in Gullah Geechee Communities

Event Type

Presentation

Location

EHFA 136

Start Date

6-3-2020 9:00 AM

End Date

6-3-2020 10:30 AM

Description

The Gullah Geechee people have deliberately worked to distinguish themselves through food, crafts, clothing, and other personal material culture items that symbolically link them to their cultural heritage across the Atlantic and to the heritage they formed through a shared history of enslavement within the United States. Clothing, as a form of material culture, is often used to convey ideas about one's gender, race, religion, and affiliation with a particular set of beliefs, and thus functions as a category for analyzing cultural identity through individual presentation. Enslaved people, particularly women, often modified their clothing with African-type patterns, bold and contrasting colors, and African silhouettes. These "stylings" among the Gullah Geechee people were most evident in the clothing they constructed and wore on their "time off" from work; though some enslaved women had access to free time under the task system, many plantation owners reinforced assimilation to Christianity by allowing Sundays off. Forging free time with cultural expression through clothing, Sunday dress developed as a way for enslaved African-descended women to reclaim their lost identities and heritage and can still be traced to Gullah Geechee churches today. By examining evidence found in traveler accounts, newspaper articles, oral histories, and photographs and paintings that showcase both Sunday dress and everyday wear, this paper identifies the ways Sunday dress has evolved over time in Gullah Geechee communities, with a particular focus on the Georgetown County area of South Carolina. The collected evidence suggests that women in Gullah Geechee communities continue to use the Sunday style of dress to signify a unique cultural identity which, by the very nature of its differentiation, also signifies a resistance to the surrounding culture

Comments

Theme: Africana Resistance; Moderator: Richard Aidoo, Coastal Carolina University

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Mar 6th, 9:00 AM Mar 6th, 10:30 AM

Clothing as Identity and Resistance: A Case Study of Women's Sunday Dress in Gullah Geechee Communities

EHFA 136

The Gullah Geechee people have deliberately worked to distinguish themselves through food, crafts, clothing, and other personal material culture items that symbolically link them to their cultural heritage across the Atlantic and to the heritage they formed through a shared history of enslavement within the United States. Clothing, as a form of material culture, is often used to convey ideas about one's gender, race, religion, and affiliation with a particular set of beliefs, and thus functions as a category for analyzing cultural identity through individual presentation. Enslaved people, particularly women, often modified their clothing with African-type patterns, bold and contrasting colors, and African silhouettes. These "stylings" among the Gullah Geechee people were most evident in the clothing they constructed and wore on their "time off" from work; though some enslaved women had access to free time under the task system, many plantation owners reinforced assimilation to Christianity by allowing Sundays off. Forging free time with cultural expression through clothing, Sunday dress developed as a way for enslaved African-descended women to reclaim their lost identities and heritage and can still be traced to Gullah Geechee churches today. By examining evidence found in traveler accounts, newspaper articles, oral histories, and photographs and paintings that showcase both Sunday dress and everyday wear, this paper identifies the ways Sunday dress has evolved over time in Gullah Geechee communities, with a particular focus on the Georgetown County area of South Carolina. The collected evidence suggests that women in Gullah Geechee communities continue to use the Sunday style of dress to signify a unique cultural identity which, by the very nature of its differentiation, also signifies a resistance to the surrounding culture