Harris Neck Symposium

The Harris Neck Land Trust and Savannah State University will co-sponsor the Harris Neck Symposium – an in-depth look at the 200-year-long struggle for freedom of a Gullah community on Georgia’s coast. The six-hour event will be held in Savannah State’s Student Union Building on Wednesday February 5, 2014 from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Admission is free to students and the general public.

The entire history of Harris Neck from the late 1700s to the present will be presented as well as the history of the first effort to reclaim the land, beginning in the late 1970s, and the present Harris Neck Justice Movement that began in 2005. Three separate panels will present different aspects of the history. The Harris Neck elders, those who were actually born on Harris Neck, will talk about what life on Harris Neck was like up until the summer of 1942. Then, several descendants of Harris Neck will talk about a number of issues, including what happened from 1979-82, what has transpired over the past eight years of the present movement, and plans for the future of Harris Neck. The final panel, comprised of several distinguished guests, will discuss what will hopefully exist on Harris Neck in the near future and the many possibilities for cultural preservation, seafood and agricultural projects, job creation, the use of alternative energy and much more.

There will be plenty of time for what is hoped will be very lively audience participation with each of the panels. A CBS “60 Minutes” segment entitled, simply, Harris Neck will also be shown. At noon there will be a one-hour lunch break. Lunch will not be provided, but there are many food stalls in the student union.

Harris Neck was a thriving, self-sufficient African American community of farmers and fishermen from 1865 to 1942 when the federal government took the land to build an Army airfield. The government’s promise to return the land to the people after the war was not kept. Instead, it gave the land to McIntosh County in 1947. Then, after 14 years of the county’s mismanagement and illegal use of the land, the federal government reclaimed the land and then – having a second opportunity to return it to the rightful owners – transferred title to the Department of Interior. US Fish & Wildlife has used Harris Neck as a National Wildlife Refuge since 1962.

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