Veronica Gerald’s familiarity with the South Carolina Gullah culture extends well beyond her professional career of researching and teaching about this unique community. One could say she has spent her entire life learning the ways of the Gullah people. Born in Mullins, South Carolina, Gerald heard elderly relatives and neighbors tell about their lives and the history of their people.
She left South Carolina to receive academic degrees in English and later taught at several universities outside the state. In 1981, Gerald returned to South Carolina to accept a teaching position at Coastal Carolina University. She has also served as Director of History and Culture at Penn Center on St. Helena Island.
Gerald brings both an indigenous and academic perspective to her advocacy of Gullah culture. While holding a full-time teaching position, Gerald renewed her ties to the community and applied her academic training to learn more about its history. This quest not only resulted in research projects, but also contributed to her goal to ensure that these people and their history are well represented outside the community and the state.
As she points out, “The influence of Gullah people is evident in almost every aspect of the state including music, foodways, moral values, rituals, agriculture, and language.” Through her lectures and storytelling, and her participation in festival displays and museum exhibits, Ms. Gerald has advocated and promoted the Gullah culture. Gerald received the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Advocacy Award in 1999.