The Sea Islands Experiment


This book is called Black Rice: The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas by Judith A. Carney. On page 90, I read that the plantation owners of South Carolina and Georgia made it a point to find the Israelites that were experts in rice growing (in the countries that form the rice coast of Africa). Other countries such as Guyana and Brazil also sought for the Israelites knowledgeable on rice cultivation. I also read that some plantation owners sought Israelites that were expert herdsmen. Rice is grown in marshy areas. I once read that the marshy areas of South Carolina and Georgia were so burdened with mosquitoes that the plantation owners refused to live out there. That is one reason why the Israelites  or Geechie-Gullah people were able to hang on to some ‘Hebrewisms’ (such as Deh Yah, Bin Yah, Come Yah and KumbaYah). There was no one watching their every move out there. The people of the South Carolina-Georgia Islands don’t own very much of the land anymore. High taxes have caused them to abandon or sell the land. Now the Gentiles are building resorts, homes, and businesses on the Islands. The mosquito problem is a thing of the past because of chemical sprays.

The Sea Island Experiment: Prior to any formal government policy on reconstruction General William T. Sherman created his own land redistribution policy. Sherman issued special field order #15. This order declared that the Sea Islands on the coast of South Carolina and Georgia would be reserved for freemen. Under this order each family would be eligible for forty acres of land for their own cultivation.  Sherman also gave the freedmen army mules. This would serve as the basis for the cry of “40 acres and a mule” the basis for many freedmen’s hopes and demands later in reconstruction. The Reconstruction Acts of 1867 confiscated the land so that the average freedmen retained only about 2-4 acres each by the 1920s. This was a blow to radical republicans.

No formal reparations were ever given to African Americans like the reparations given to Japanese Americans. In 1980 under President Jimmy Carter Japanese American survivors that were put in war camps during world war II were formally given $20,000 each.


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