ENGLEWOOD — Julie Swank, a teacher from Northmont City Schools is one of 72 local teachers from around the United States selected as a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Scholar who participated in a Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshop focused on one of the early African-American cultures in the U.S in a program developed by scholars from the University of Connecticut and funded by a grant from the NEH.
“Gullah Voices: Traditions and Transformations” is a week-long workshop for K-12 teachers which ran in two sessions, July 10-15 and July 17-22, in Savannah, GA, and provide historic insight into the Gullah community in the corridor between North Carolina and Florida, where people from West Africa, many from Sierra Leone, were enslaved to work on rice plantations. Mary Ellen Junda and Robert Stephens, professors of music in the School of Fine Arts at UConn, conducted research and developed the curriculum for the workshops under an NEH grant.
Throughout the workshop, teachers experienced Gullah culture directly as they are given opportunities to hear performances by groups and participate in traditional activities with visits to sites such as Pin Point Heritage Museum in Savannah, GA, situated in the former Varn and Sons Oyster Canning Factory; The Georgia Historical Society, the oldest continuous operating historical society in the South; Penn Center, a national historic landmark of Gullah culture in St. Helena, SC; and Hog Hammock, Sapelo Island, GA, the last Gullah community on the Sea Islands. The workshop faculty includes a cross-section of scholars, cultural historians, artists, and musicians who specialize in Gullah culture.
Teachers participating in the “Gullah Voices” workshop were selected as an NEH Summer Scholar from a national applicant pool and receive a $1,200 stipend to help cover their travel, study and living expenses. The “Gullah Voices” workshop is one of 21 NEH Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshops on a variety of subjects offered this summer for 1,512 teachers who will teach more than 100,000 American students next fall.