The public is invited to The Ossabaw Island Foundation’s Annual Meeting and a celebration of the 105th birthday of Eleanor "Sandy" West, a former owner/resident of the island.
The foundation’s annual meeting brings a little bit of Ossabaw to the mainland for an opportunity to learn about the island and about projects on it.
It coincides with West’s birthday. She was the last private owner and resident of Ossabaw, and led her family’s sale of the island to the state as a heritage preserve in 1978. She lived on Ossabaw until mid-2016 and now lives in Savannah. Her 105th birthday is Jan. 17.
During the meeting, Dr. Paul M. Pressly, director emeritus of the Ossabaw Island Education Alliance and a history scholar, will present "Discovering" coastal Georgia’s Gullah-Geechee people: A personal journey. He will discuss the evolution of his understanding of the history and culture of Coastal Georgia’s African-American Geechee communities.
In the 1930s, historic African-American communities on the coast (known as "Gullah-Geechee") were "discovered" by white sociologists, journalists and researchers. The outsiders tended to romanticize the Gullah-Geechee culture and people; while downplaying the realities of poverty, discrimination, and a history of enslavement. Beginning in the 1980s, African-American and white scholars, writers, artists and community members have transformed general understanding of Gullah-Geechee culture as something more than "exotic."
In his lecture, Pressly will draw on his years of research on African-American historical figures and communities in Georgia; on oral history narratives of past residents of Ossabaw Island, on his relationships with figures in the conservation of Gullah-Geechee culture, and with residents of Pin Point and other historically African-American communities in Georgia and South Carolina.
Pressly won the Bell Award for the best book on Georgia history in 2011 (as an editor of "African American Life in the Georgia Lowcountry") and in 2014 (as author of "On the Rim of the Caribbean"). He holds a Ph.D. in history from Oxford University. He is co-editor of the forthcoming book "Coastal Nature, Coastal Culture: Environmental Histories of the Georgia Coast," scheduled for publication this spring by University of Georgia Press.
The meeting will be at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 18, at Coastal Georgia Center, 305 Fahm St., Savannah.
The reception and meeting are free and open to the public. It is sponsored by Georgia Power, with additional support from the Kole Family Foundation and the Emerging Leaders Committee/Savannah Community Foundation.