Almost Lost In Translation: African Gullah Culture on Display

African Gullah exhibit at Smithsonian

Friday, Nov 12, 2010  |  Updated 8:45 AM EDT
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An exhibit at <a title=Smithsonian's Anacostia Community Museum shows the groundbreaking work of linguist Lorenzo Dow Turner." />

An exhibit at Smithsonian's Anacostia Community Museum shows the groundbreaking work of linguist Lorenzo Dow Turner.

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Words like "gumbo" and "chigger" have roots in African words long ago, but those connections might have been lost if not for one of the first black linguists.

Lorenzo Dow Turner's research in the 1930s was first to show that people of African heritage retained and passed on their cultural identity and language, despite slavery.

The Smithsonian's Anacostia Community Museum is staging the first major exhibit on Turner's work. It’s called “Word, Shout, Song.” The museum hosts a symposium Friday and Saturday and the exhibit is on view through July 2011.

Turner focused on the Gullah people who live in South Carolina and Georgia. He proved their Creole speech was a language and not "baby talk."

The exhibit includes Turner's early studies at Howard University, his bulky recording device and rare recordings of Gullah speech.

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