Date of Award

May 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Historic Preservation

Committee Member

Jon B Marcoux

Committee Member

Katherine Pemberton

Committee Member

Barry Stiefel

Committee Member

Heather Hodges


Though Gullah Geechee heritage has been recognized by the National Park Service as traditional cultural property (TCP), no known Gullah Geechee property on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) is listed as a TCP. TCPs are properties eligible for NRHP inclusion that are associated with the history and continuation of a traditional culture. This thesis aims to bridge that disconnect by exploring how Gullah Geechee communities could be considered as TCPs through the context of two case studies. The Gullah Geechee culture may be briefly defined as a distinct African American culture descended from Africans enslaved on plantations along the Atlantic coasts of Florida, Georgia, and North and South Carolina, and is known for its own language, food, arts, and cultural values of community, spirituality, and self-sufficiency. Because there is no official database or searchable list of TCPs available, this thesis creates a running list of known TCP listings on the NRHP including name, location, and the traditional culture associated with the listing. Findings from this research conclude there are 57 listed TCPs out of over 96,000 NRHP listings, a total of 0.06%. An exploration of how to utilize the TCP concept in the eligibility and listing process proceeds with case-study analysis of two Gullah Geechee communities. One is Stoney Community in Hilton Head, SC and the other is Phillips Community in Mount Pleasant, SC. At the time of this thesis, both communities were expressing concerns and opposition to U.S. highway expansion in their communities and were seeking the designation of eligible for nomination to the NRHP. In communities facing loss of certain physical integrity from highway infrastructure, approaching Gullah Geechee communities with a TCP approach may affect NRHP eligibility. Using interviews with community members conducted for the Highway 278 project in the Stoney Community, significance and integrity are defined from the community perspective, then applied to the NRHP using TCP concepts. This thesis examines the two case studies as traditional cultural properties using both a community-based approach to significance and integrity while recognizing and applying the policy requirements of the NRHP and Bulletin 38. The thesis questions how the TCP framework for community-based definitions of significance and integrity may affect the NRHP eligibility of Gullah Geechee communities.



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