BEAUFORT — A new Gullah/Geechee Visitors Center is opening Saturday in this coastal city southeast of Charleston.
It’s the second boost to African American tourism the city has received in the last several weeks. Last month, the National Park Service designated several areas of Beaufort as a national monument to Reconstruction, which draws attention to African American efforts to rebuild after the Civil War.
Gullah/Geechee has strong African roots, including a language that mixes African and English elements. The culture has survived on South Carolina’s rural sea islands, as well as along the coast to the north and south.
The visitors center is at 1908 Boundary St. The leased space, formerly occupied by a bail bondsman, is across from Town Hall and beside Sgt. White’s Restaurant.
The grand opening will be from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday. Marquetta Goodwine, also known as Queen Quet of the Gullah/Geechee Nation, will be there to talk about her culture and sign her books.
African art from LyBensons Gallery will be on display. The Rev. Kenneth Hodges, a former state representative, owns the gallery and helped organize the center. He said he hopes to tie in with the International African American Museum in Charleston, which is scheduled to open in late 2019.
Normal hours for the center will be from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
The center is affiliated with the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition. The coalition, founded by Goodwine in 1996, is based on St. Helena Island, which is home to the Penn Center, a former school for freed slaves.
"The new space will offer visitors to the area seeking information on Gullah/Geechee businesses, events, history and culture a place to stop and receive it before engaging in this unique living culture," according to an announcement.