The Legacy of Early African Americans & The Gullah-Geechee People

A National Endowment for the Humanities Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshop

The Legacy of
Early African Americans &
the Gullah-Geechee People

During this six-day workshop, explore the history and cultural legacy of Gullah-Geechee people. In partnership with various descendants, scholars, and heritage institutions, this program will focus on the Gullah-Geechee of the Lowcountry of Georgia, descendants of enslaved people from the West Coast of Africa. Their culture is distinctive and found only in the Lowcountry of the Southeast. By witnessing their stories and culture, and by uncovering uncomfortable realities, we aim to teach the power of solidarity.

Overview & Expectations

Our Team

Selection Criteria

Preparing Your Application

Submission of Application & Notification Procedure

Application & Important Dates

Program Includes:

Cultural Immersion with excursions exploring history, architecture, agriculture, ecology, urban and rural family life, and education of African-Americans and Gullah in the Lowcountry from slavery to present day.

Critical Scholarship scholarship by exploring a plethora of sources presented during the week, including but not limited to primary and secondary written and oral histories, cultural experiences, archives, and artifacts. An elearning platform supports pre- and post-program learning and collaboration. 

Professional Development

  • An e-learning component prior to travel with short readings, videos, and reflective assignments to prepare teachers before travel.
  • Practical, age-appropriate tools to teach about this aspect of American history.
  • Hands-on action planning and design thinking sessions.
  • Modeling of how to build reciprocal partnerships with similar organizations in educator’s home communities for future collaboration within the classroom. 
  • An ongoing community of support from Nobis Project and the cohort.
  • Professional development certificate available.
Session I: July 14 – 19, 2024
Session II: July 21 – 26, 2024
Location: Savannah, GA with day trips to surrounding area
Duration: 6 days
Application Deadline: March 5, 2024

The Gullah-Geechee preserved more of their African traditions than other groups of enslaved Africans in the U.S. As a result, the Gullah-Geechee people’s history, stories, beliefs, and traditions are central to the establishment of African American cultural institutions and practices, and therefore critical to understanding American society in general. The multicultural roots of the U.S. were influenced by Gullah-Geechee architecture, objects, faith, traditions, and individuals who collectively shaped our nation’s democratic self-understandings. This program exposes participants to the significant historical influences that Gullah-Geechee people have contributed to making America “A More Perfect Union,” even as they were excluded from its benefits.

The institution of slavery and the contributions of the enslaved and their descendants is foundational to the formation of the U.S. and has long been undertaught and over simplified in K-12 curriculum. This workshop grounds teachers with a scholarly understanding of (1) how African Americans, free and enslaved, have strived to realize the nation’s ideal that “all men are created equal” in possession of liberty and certain rights, and (2) how the Gullah-Geechee people, who worked over four centuries to preserve their culture, contributed to this democratic ideal.

Through cultural immersion, learn how different communities and heritage organizations preserve the history of African-Americans in the Lowcountry. Focusing on the themes of race, slavery, and the education of African-Americans this program considers the impact of geography, environment, and diaspora on the development of community values and culture by looking at two different experiences: the urban environment of Savannah and the rural Gullah-Geechee culture on Sapelo Island.

Overview & Expectations

    NEH Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshops provide grades K-12 educators with the opportunity to engage in intensive study and discussion of important topics and issues in American history and culture, while providing them with direct experiences in the interpretation and analysis of significant historical and cultural sites and the use of archival and other primary and secondary sources.

    NEH Landmarks workshops involve teachers in collaboration with core faculty and visiting scholars to study the best available scholarship on a specific landmark. Workshops, offered twice in one summer, accommodate 36 teachers in each one-week session. Participants benefit by gaining a sense of the importance of historical and cultural places, by making connections between the workshop content and what they teach, and by developing individual teaching and/or research materials. In the As Freedom Grows workshop, educators will be encouraged to develop at least one lesson or curriculum tool that could be used in their classes. These resources will be shared (subject to approval) on the Nobis Project’s and NEH’s EDUSite websites.


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    NEH Eligibility Criteria

    Please review the eligibility criteria for participation in NEH Landmarks workshops.

    In any given year, an individual may apply to a maximum of two projects but may attend only one.

    Stipend & Conditions of Participation

    Teachers selected to participate in the As Freedom Grows workshop will receive a $1,300 stipend at the end of the session. Stipends are intended to help cover travel expenses to and from the project location (Savannah, GA), lodging and ordinary living expenses. 

    All participants are expected to engage fully as professionals in all aspects of the project from the pre-readings, elearning activities, attendance of all programming, to the final curriculum projects. Participants who do not complete the full tenure of the project will receive a reduced stipend. Stipends will be distributed after check-out and the last session on the last day of the program. Stipends are taxable.

    At the end of the workshop, participants will be asked to provide an assessment of their workshop experience, especially in terms of its value to their personal and professional development. These confidential online evaluations will become a part of the project’s grant file.

    Required Readings

    Upon acceptance to the workshop, participants will receive copies of the required texts and access to an elearning platform with additional required and suggested readings, videos, and activities for the week. These are designed to offer context for the week’s activities.  Participants will also use the elearning platform to collect, share, and discuss resources. All participants are expected to be fully engaged in all aspects of the project from the pre-readings, elearning activities to the final curriculum projects.

    Continuing Education Credits

    Upon successful completion of the program, each participant will receive a certificate of participation listing the 45 hours of instruction (including the elearning and workshop).  This certificate can be submitted to the applicable state agency for professional development units pending evaluation and approval. 

    Health & Safety

    Learn more about health & safety while traveling with Nobis Project. 

    View Here >>

    NEH Principles of Civility

    All participants are required to read and abide by the National Endowment for the Humanities Principles of Civility for Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshops.

    NEH Seminars, Institutes, and Landmarks programs are intended to extend and deepen knowledge and understanding of the humanities by focusing on significant topics, texts, and issues; contribute to the intellectual vitality and professional development of participants; and foster a community of inquiry that provides models of excellence in scholarship and teaching. 

    NEH expects that project directors will take responsibility for encouraging an ethos of openness and respect, upholding the basic norms of civil discourse. 

    Seminar, Institute, and Landmarks presentations and discussions should be: 

    1. firmly grounded in rigorous scholarship, and thoughtful analysis; 
    2. conducted without partisan advocacy; 
    3. respectful of divergent views; 
    4. free of ad hominem commentary; and 
    5. devoid of ethnic, religious, gender, disability, or racial bias. 

    NEH welcomes comments, concerns, or suggestions on these principles at

    Lodging Options

    Securing lodging is the responsibility of participants. We have a block of rooms saved at the DeSoto Hotel in Savannah’s historic district for a rate of $169 per night, plus taxes and fees ($179 for triple occupancy, and $189 for quad occupancy). This is where we will gather at the start of each day. Selected participants will be added to our elearning course where they can find others interested in sharing accommodations in order to save on expenses. There are ample airbnb and other hotel options in close walking distance as well.

    Sample per person lodging cost breakdown:
    Desoto: 5 nights / single occupancy = $1017.72
    Desoto: 5 nights / double occupancy = $508.86
    Desoto: 5 nights / triple occupancy = $358.72
    Desoto: 5 nights / quad occupancy = $283.65

    Note that breakfast is not included.

    Transportation Details


    The closest airport is Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (SAV). It is a 25 min drive from the airport to downtown Savannah and an approximate $25-$35 Uber/Lyft fare. 


    Parking is available at the DeSoto Hotel (the homebase of for the workshop) at a rate of $32 per day. There is a city garage four blocks away with daily rates between $14-17.

    Our Team

    Amir Jamal Touré, JD


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     A descendant of South Carolina Hilton Head Gullah, who works in the community to preserve the history of Gullah-Geechee people and dismantle myths. Dr. Touré is a professor of Africana Studies at Savannah State University and Criminal Justice at Georgia Southern University. Dr. Touré is also the founder and director of Day Clean Journeys, an organization that strives to convey the stories and attributes of African American in Savannah, GA and throughout the Lowcountry. Touré is the resident scholar for Geechee Kunda Cultural Center and Museum in Riceboro, Ga., and is known as a Djeli (cultural historian). He has performed internationally in sharing history and culture.

    JL Josiah 'Jazz' Watts


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    A Sapelo Island descendant and the playwright of The Sapelo Project.  The Sapelo Project integrates music, movement, spoken word, acting, and cinema to capture some of the culture and stories of Sapelo Island and the development of the Saltwater Geechee-Gullah dialect, the history of slavery on the island, and the melding of influences of Arabic, English, Spanish and French. Mr. Watts is a former classroom teacher and is an heirs rights organizer.  He currently shares his community outreach talent with two Atlanta-based nonprofits.  His work involves supporting heirs and accessing their ancestral rights and access to their inherited lands. He is also a Commissioner on the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor.

    Christen Higgins Clougherty, Ph.D.


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    Christen brings over twenty years of experience as an educator and administrator in community organizations, K-12 public, charter and independent schools, and colleges/universities. Christen attributes her commitment to using service-learning and civic engagement to promote global citizenship to her experiences as a student at the Carolina Friends School. Her honors include recognition as a National Emerging Scholar for K-12 Service-Learning Research (2008 and 2009) by the National Service-Learning Partnership at the Academy for Educational Development. Christen received her Ph.D. in Quaker Studies from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. She  completed her doctoral research on the synthesis of experiential education, service-learning, creative-process theory, and global citizenship education. Her Masters of Arts is from Savannah College of Art and Design where her thesis explored how socially conscious artist instigate social change. Christen is also a founding board member of two charter schools in Savannah, GA; Tybee Island Maritime Academy and Susie King Taylor Community School.

    Walter Isaac, Ph.D.


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    A Geechee descendant who holds advanced degrees from Temple and Yale. Originally from the southeastern Lowcountry, he is a former research fellow in Africana Religious History from Brown University. He has written many scholarly articles on themes such as the influence of Igbo culture on Gullah-Geechee identity, representations of slavery in American education, racial formations in the antebellum South, as well as the problems of memorializing the Confederacy in postbellum spaces. His work has appeared in several publications, including the Companion to African American Studies, Violence in American Society, Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism and Journal of the Middle East and Africa. He is currently an Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at Claflin University. 

    Melissa Cooper, Ph.D.


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    Dr. Cooper is a writer, historian and professor. She is the author of the groundbreaking historical study, Making Gullah: A History of Sapelo Islanders, Race, and the American Imagination (2017). Making Gullah captured the attention of general reading audiences, students and scholars. Cooper’s book was discussed and featured in a variety of media ranging from The New Yorker, Atlanta Journal Constitution and Upscale Magazine to podcasts and radio shows. Cooper is also the author of “Selling Voodoo In Migration Metropolises” in the edited collection Race and Retail (2015), and Instructor’s Resource ManualFreedom on My Mind: A History of African Americans, with Documents (2012).

    Dr. Cooper’s teaching experience spans more than two decades. She is currently Associate Professor of History at Rutgers University-Newark, and has been a member of the faculty at the University of South Carolina. Her long teaching career includes teaching diverse populations of learners in New Jersey public high schools. As a result, Dr. Cooper was featured in the Peabody Award winning documentary “Minding the Gap: Why Good Schools are Failing Black Students” produced by Nancy Solomon, Spencer Fellow, in 2008. Dr. Cooper won an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship from the Carnegie Corporation in 2019. She was also a 2021 Scholar-in-Residence at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

    Jillian McRae

    Education Consultant

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    Jillian McRae has been at Ossining High School for over sixteen years as an English teacher. She has co-created and co-taught several college level courses during her tenure at OHS including: SUNY: Classism, Racism, Sexism; The Black Experience through Literature & History; Concepts of Race & Culture in the Modern World; and Latinos in the U.S. She has an undergraduate degree in English with a double minor in Urban Education and Africana Studies from the University at Albany and a Masters in English Education from Teachers College. 

    Heather DuCloux

    Grant Administrator

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    Heather’s former careers include YMCA Executive Director and U.S. Army broadcast journalist. As a YMCA Executive Director she represented the organization as a community liaison and chief fundraiser. Heather was a board member on the Milwaukee-based social justice journal Rethinking Schools. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in German Studies from the College of William and Mary and a Masters Degree in Business from Cardinal Stritch University. As an agent of social responsibility, she believes it is her duty to build connections and establish community relationships between organizations and stakeholders in order to expand the capacity for justice and equity. As a Nobis Project board member she aims to increase the breadth and influence of the organization through fund and board development. As a Nobis World alumna, she has experienced socially responsible service learning. It is her goal to witness more educators and education advocates share in this global learning experience.

    Selection Criteria

    , each weekIMPORTANT NOTE: Please review the eligibility criteria for participation in NEH Landmarks workshops.

    A selection committee will read and evaluate all properly completed applications.

    Special consideration is given to the likelihood that an applicant will benefit professionally and personally from the workshop experience. It is important, therefore, to address each of the following factors in the application essay:

    1. your professional background;
    2. your interest in the subject of the workshop;
    3. your special perspectives, skills, or experiences that would contribute to the workshop; and
    4. how the experience would enhance your teaching or school service.

    For each session eight workshop spaces must be reserved for teachers who are new to the profession (those who have been teaching for five years or less).

    Selection committees are charged to give consideration to applicants who have not participated in an NEH-supported seminar, institute, or workshop in the last three years (2021, 2022, 2023). Additionally, preference is given to applicants who would significantly contribute to the diversity of the workshop.

    Preparing Your Application

    After carefully reading all the information on this page, especially the eligibility guidelines,  the application form must be completed online. There will be a series of questions about your teaching experience and context, preferred session, and contact information.

    Application Form – Fully complete the application form. All sections are required.

    Please Note: An individual may apply to up to two NEH summer projects (NEH Landmarks Workshops, NEH Summer Seminars, or NEH Summer Institutes), but may participate in only one.

    Submission of Application & Notification Procedure

    Applications must be submitted via Nobis Project’s online form, not the NEH. If you do not have online access, call Christen at 912.403.4113.

    Applications sent to the NEH will not be reviewed.

    The deadline is: Tuesday, March 5, 2024 by 11:59PM EDT.

    Successful applicants, alternates and rejections will be notified on Friday, April 5, 2024. Successful applicants will have until Friday, April 19, 2024, to accept or decline the offer. Alternates will be notified if they will be offered a place no earlier than Monday, April 22, 2024. Workshop logistical details for successful applicants will be sent no later than Wednesday, May 1, 2024. Workshop materials will be posted on the field study elearning platform no later than Saturday, June 1, 2024.

    Once you have accepted an offer to attend any NEH Summer Program (NEH Landmarks Workshop, NEH Summer Seminar, or NEH Summer Institute), you may not accept an additional offer or withdraw in order to accept a different offer.

    Equal Opportunity Statement

    Endowment programs do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or age. For further information, write to the Equal Opportunity Officer, National Endowment for the Humanities, 400 7th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20024. TDD: 202-606-8282 (for the hearing imparied only).

    Application & Important Dates

    Application Form
    For Questions Please Contact

    Christen Clougherty at 912.403.4113 or

    Important Dates

    Session I: July 14-19, 2024

    Session II: July 21-26, 2024

    Application Deadline: March 5, 2024

    Notification of Acceptance: April 5, 2024

    Accept or Decline Offer By: April 19, 2024

    Travel Logistics Shared: May 1, 2024

    Workshop Materials Shared:  June 1, 2024

    This workshop has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom, and is being hosted by the Nobis Project. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this field study, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.