From staff reports
Eric Crawford and Marlena Smalls will be the guests at the next installment of USC Beaufort’s Lunch With Authors at noon, Wednesday, Feb. 16 at the Belfair Clubhouse in Bluffton.
In Gullah Spirituals, musicologist Eric Crawford traces Gullah Geechee songs from their beginnings in West Africa to their height as songs for social change and Black identity in the 20th-century American South.
While much has been done to study, preserve, and interpret Gullah culture in the Lowcountry and sea islands of South Carolina and Georgia, some traditions like the shouting and rowing songs have been all but forgotten. This work, which focuses primarily on South Carolina’s St. Helena Island, illuminates the remarkable history, survival, and influence of spirituals since the earliest recordings in the 1860s.
Marlena Smalls founded The Hallelujah Singers in 1990 to preserve the Gullah culture of the South Carolina Sea Islands. She is a sacred music vocalist, also singing gospel, contemporary, jazz and blues. Her programs for schools, reunion, and meeting groups incorporate lectures, music, and Gullah storytelling.
Inducted into the South Carolina Black Hall of Fame in 2004, Marlena has performed for the Queen of England and many U. S. and international dignitaries. She has worked with film producer Joel Silver and Academy Award winners Tom Hanks, Demi Moore, and Glenn Close. In addition to many productions for PBS, SCETV, and GPTC, she is known to international audiences as Bubba’s mom in the Academy Award-winning motion picture “Forrest Gump”.