A stunningly beautiful 2,687 acres of meadows, woodlands, freshwater ponds and marsh, Harris Neck – a national wildlife refuge since 1961 – was once home to a prosperous and self-reliant community of 75 African American families. From the end of the Civil War until 1942, the people of Harris Neck, located along the coast in the northeast corner of McIntosh County, Georgia, lived harmoniously with each other and their natural environment. Speaking about their lives before 1942, many of the remaining elders who still live in Georgia say, “It was a hard life, but it was a good life.”
The people lived off the land, creeks, rivers and ocean, and they took their crops, wild game and seafood to market in Savannah and Darien in small sailboats. They lived with nature, not apart from it, in a manner that would decades later come to be known as environmentally friendly and sustainable. They relied on the outside world for very little and preserved much of their African ways - a culture that came to be known as Gullah or Gullah-Geechie. A hard working and resourceful people, they had their own seafood processing plants, schoolhouse, general store and firehouse.
Then in the summer of 1942 everything changed. Click to continue.