Keep Sapelo Geechee: Gullah-Geechee step up fight to protect historic Georgia home
Sapelo Island, Georgia - Gullah-Geechee people, descendants of enslaved West Africans, are ramping up the fight to protect their historic Sapelo Island home from outside developers with a new referendum petition.
Earlier this month, McIntosh County commissioners voted 3-2 to remove zoning restrictions in Hog Hammock (aka Hogg Hummock), despite overwhelming opposition from Gullah-Geechee residents.
The Gullah-Geechee people descend from West Africans trafficked across the Atlantic and forced to labor on Southern plantations. They cultivated their own creole language and customs with direct ties to Central and West African cultures.
The 427-acre Hog Hammock community on Georgia's Sapelo Island has been listed as a national historic site since 1996, prohibiting the construction of homes greater than 1,400 square feet and protecting existing structures.
The county commissioners' decision paved the way for developers to construct much larger homes on the island, up to 3,000 square feet. Residents say the decision leaves Hog Hammock's 30-50 Gullah-Geechee residents vulnerable to higher property taxes and displacement.
Now, the Gullah-Geechee community is fighting back with a petition to put the decision on zoning changes before voters as a ballot measure. They need to gather 2,200 signatures from registered voters in the county to enable the referendum.
Cover photo: IMAGO / USA TODAY Network