Hilton Head Island, SC is famously known for its luxurious resorts, picturesque golf courses, and beautiful beaches. However, there is an untold story of the many struggles and racial discriminatory practices that many native islanders still face. These native islanders (African-Americans also known as “Gullahs”) have lived on the island for decades. The Gullahs are direct descendants of enslaved Africans from various ethnic groups from West and Central Africa with a distinct culture incorporating elements from different African cultural traditions, languages and religion. At the end of the Civil War, many purchased acreage of land as a place of refuge for their families. Waterfront property in the late 1800’s sold for a few hundred dollars and today that same property is worth millions.
Greed has caused many Gullah families to lose their land. Creative and divisive schemes by real estate developers and money hungry attorneys have created a blood bath leaving helpless natives as devoured prey. The enforcement of increased property taxes, partition sale actions, and the appointment of a receiver are a few of the many attempts which are the driving forces for Gullah families to lose their property.
Dennis Allen, a former slave started purchasing property on Hilton Head Island in 1897. To date the total acreage is 38.5 acres and remains the largest parcel of undeveloped land on the island. Allen Family members started the 4DENNISMOVENT in 2015 to help protect Gullah land owners and to promote awareness of the unscrupulous acts of greed in the Gullah Geechee corridor of the United States (which encompasses the coastal areas of North Carolina through Florida). In fact, the Allen family is in court now fighting to protect their property in which many generations have lived on for years.
ALLEN FAMILY CASE STUDY:
The Allen family case was initiated in 2009 within the Beaufort County Court System. For years, the family has been in and out of court battling an insurmountable number of legal issues. The most recent tactic involves assigning a “receiver” to collect money from those living on the property – the same property in which the family owns and pays property taxes. This motion was introduced by an attorney who has an ulterior motive, which is to sell the Allen property. There are several family members residing on the property who are elderly, fighting life threatening illnesses, and living on fixed incomes. The receiver would earn a fee or commission on the money he or she collects. Why should the family pay to live on land that they rightfully own? The deed is in the name of the family, so no one should be able to dictate what they should do on their land. You can learn more about the pending case by reviewing the court documents online at:
Case Number: 2009CPO704889
Please also see our interview in the recent article in The Nation Magazine, African Americans Have Lost Untold Acres of Land Over the Last Century. An obscure legal loophole is often to blame.
We need your signature and support to help promote justice for native island families on Hilton Head Island. Help us tell the Town of Hilton Head Island that CHANGE – is needed. They can no longer treat tax paying, law abiding citizens unfairly as the world only see the perception of Hilton Head Island as this beautiful oasis of paradise. There are many unfair and racial discriminatory practices that have been hidden for years as referenced in the book, The Land Was Ours, How Black Beaches Became White Wealth in the Coastal South by Andrew W. Kahrl.
There are many laws protecting the property of Native Americans, however there is very little protecting Gullah families for the right to maintain their land and culture. Most recently, the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act was signed into law in South Carolina, however it does not cover cases that were in process before January 2017. The Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act is needed and we need more to help native islanders. Protective laws are needed to preserve land owned by slaves and the Gullah community. The Gullah community is vastly becoming extinct due to greed. Help us stand up to these acts! Please sign for justice. Please sign to help the Allen Family fight against the appointment of a receiver! Please sign to tell the Town of Hilton Head to STAND UP and SUPPORT island native communities. Too many families have lost their land due to discriminatory laws, loopholes, and practices. Please sign to let South Carolina Legislatures become more aware and cognizant of the importance of preserving historic land. Justice for Gullah – because every community matter!