Thursday, April 24, 2014
Vermelle “Bunny” Rodrigues, a human encyclopedia of African American history, and her husband, Andrew, a trove of knowledge himself, have opened the first authentic Gullah Museum in Georgetown.
The museum, which officially opened April 17, is the only museum in South Carolina devoted to educating the public about the Gullahs’ important contributions to the making of America.
Don’t let the size of this small museum fool you. Beyond the front door lie hundreds of years of information and artifacts.
After 15 minutes of conversation with Miss Bunny, as everyone comes to know her, you will feel like a time traveler. If you are lucky enough to meet her husband, you will get yet another view of history from his eyes.
As she sat making a new burlap sign for the museum, Miss Bunny related that she grew up on the west side of Georgetown.
“At that time, there was a very diverse ethnic population where I grew up,” she said. “There were blacks, poor whites, Lebanese, and Syrian folks.”
Relating how the Lumbee Indians transported lumber down the rivers to Georgetown, Miss Bunny said, “Can you imagine how dangerous that route was? They were fighting alligators and snakes trying to get their lumber down that river to Georgetown.”
Animated and fascinating, Miss Bunny continued her story to the amazement of her small audience.
“You know what they did when they were finished?” she asked. “They walked home, 100 miles they walked, all the way home.”
Andrew emphasizes the importance of the skilled Gullah rice cultivators and their role in the introduction and development of the rice culture in South Carolina.
“Oral history is so very important.” he said. “A long time ago, one guy tells a story, then another guy tells it, and then along the way a historian borrows the story and before he knows it, he has retold misinformation.”
It’s the misinformation about the Gullah people that Andrew and Bunny hope to dispel in their knowledgeable and fascinating stories that take visitors from West Africa through emancipation from slavery in the Lowcountry.
“People just don’t understand the true history of the Gullah people,” Miss Bunny said. “They think they know, but they don’t.”
Believing that there is important history not being told, Bunny and Andrew Rodrígues are eager for visitors to start walking through their doors.
The Gullah Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, and is located in Georgetown’s Historic District at 123-7 King Street, directly behind the Wells Fargo Bank building on the corner of Front and King Streets.
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