Refusal to Fade: Inscribing Memory on the Historically Black Beaches of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor

Author: ORCID icon
Rosner, Sam, School of Architecture, University of Virginia
Bohannon, CL, AR-Landscape Architecture; AR-Deans Office, University of Virginia

This thesis examines the trajectories of Seabreeze (Wilmington, NC), Atlantic Beach (Myrtle Beach, SC), and American Beach (Amelia Island, FL) - three historically Black beaches along the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor (GGCHC). It seeks to preserve these unique histories by designing landscapes that draw from historical forms and narratives while celebrating legacies of Black joy, prosperity, and community-building by attending to the ecological and social health of the beach. Historically, Black beaches are defined as coastal resort communities that were established during the Jim Crow era by Black entrepreneurs to provide waterfront leisure opportunities on a segregated shoreline. Beaches along the GGCHC are distinct because many families who established the resorts have long-standing claims to the land. Gullah people have been stewards and landowners along the Lowcountry South since the 18th century when their West African ancestors were enslaved and forced overseas to import their agricultural knowledge and develop the landscape into a vast network of rice plantations. The endurance of Gullah culture speaks to the strength and resiliency of a people who have emerged from enslavement to build sovereign communities centered around education and prosperity. Inspired by this legacy of sovereignty, my research challenges normative methods of marking and memorializing, seeking to center counter-narratives of Black prosperity and placemaking to encode memory in these fragile landscapes through an ecological restoration approach informed by community interviews, archival images, and oral histories.

MLA (Master of Landscape Architecture)
African American recreation, Black narratives, Historic Preservation, Cultural landscapes, Historically Black Beaches, Gullah Geechee, Ecological Restoration, American history
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