Slaves’ descendants have long history of enduring hurricanes

ST. HELENA ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — A community of slave descendants on the South Carolina coast is used to riding out big storms — from one that killed an estimated 2,000 people in 1893 to Tropical Storm Irma last year.

Gullah residents of St. Helena Island near the South Carolina-Georgia line are keeping a close watch on Hurricane Florence, which is expected to hit the Carolinas this weekend.

Local barber Josh Dais says island residents trying to decide whether to flee often listen to elder relatives as much as professional meteorologists. He says: “If Mama won’t leave, most folks aren’t going to leave.”

The island’s Gullah community is home to about 5,000 people. Scholars say separation from the mainland caused the Gullah to retain much of their African heritage.

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