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The Original Gullah Festival

  • Henry C Chambers Waterfront Park Bay Street Beaufort, SC, 29902 United States (map)

The Gullah Festival was established to honor and recreate the atmosphere of a celebration called, Decoration Day, now Memorial Day. It was started by freedmen at the end of the Civil War on May 1, 1865, in South Carolina during the Reconstruction Era. When the USCT – United Staes Colored Troops arrived in Charleston after the war and realized that their fallen comrades had not been given proper burial but had been placed in a mass grave, they dug up all 250 + bodies and reinterred them in individual graves decorated with wooden crosses, flowers, shells and flags. It took 2 weeks. They estimate over 10,000 participants in the first Decoration Day parade. That first celebration honored the dead with full military rites, speeches, horse races, and picnics. It soon became one of the largest celebrations in the nation and was moved to Beaufort National Cemetery and surrounding area.