Thanksgiving in The Gullah Geechee Community

The North Carolina Rice Festival

Contributed by the NC Rice Festival

The North Carolina Rice Festival

TeCora Galloway

By:  T. Galloway


During the fall season we often focus on the traditions of Thanksgiving in accordance with the colonists and Native Americans, but I think it is important that we also talk about the enslaved people, specifically low country Gullah Geechee enslaved people and their traditions that were also present during this time.

Enslaved people during colonial times celebrated Thanksgiving along with the colonists, but their celebration was centered around the church. Many spent the holiday expressing how thankful they were, and also for eventual liberation. This is similar to our traditions now in the Cape Fear region, where many Gullah Geechee individuals in my area spend their holiday season in prayer. I asked my grandmother what she used to do for Thanksgiving, and most of her traditions translate into the traditions I practice today, including turkey gizzard gravy, and pineapple pudding.

The food that was enjoyed during this time was significant in the context of slavery and Gullah Geechee tradition. Enslaved people that worked in the fields had to forage for food, and made things that were readily available to them like cornbread and rice. Enslaved people that did domestic work were given leftovers from the enslavers’ meal. In Gullah Geechee traditions, some of these foods included whole pigs, oysters, okra, and other foods that were raised and cultivated in the low country region. In a lot of Gullah Geechee households today you will commonly see fish, oysters, pig, and rice served during Thanksgiving, though there are many more traditional foods that are present.

The North Carolina Rice Festival for 2023 is temporarily being located in Brunswick Town, since the Founders Park in Leland is being renovated. This will locate the Rice Festival at a historic site! Next month’s issue will include more information about the Rice Festival event.