The first international conference to honor Liberty County’s Gullah Geechee native daughter Susie King Taylor will be held Aug. 3 and 4 at Midway First Presbyterian Church, 672 North Coastal Highway.
The Susie King Taylor Mami Wata Rising International Conference is a two-day gathering that is free and open to the public.
Taylor attended clandestine underground schools as a slave girl for nearly seven years in both Savannah and Midway before escaping plantation slavery in 1862. She became a teacher to hundreds of other runaway slaves who would eventually compose the 1st S.C. Volunteers/33rd United States Colored Troops during the Civil War. She was enlisted as a laundress, cook, nurse and musket cleaner.
After the war she opened three schools and became an entrepreneur before migrating to Boston, Mass., where she worked as a domestic servant, a Civil War veterans caretaker, and racial uplift activist. In 1902 she wrote her memoir, “Reminiscences of My Life in Camp with the 33rd United States Colored Troops.”
The conference is sponsored by the Susie King Taylor Women’s Institute and Ecology Center in Midway, the freedom fighter’s hometown. The institute’s founder and executive director is Hermina Glass-Hill, an Atlanta-born historian who now lives in Midway.
Glass-Hill researched Taylor’s life for nearly 10 years. She began her research while working as associate director of the Center for the Study of the Civil War Era at Kennesaw State University.
The event will emphasize Gullah Geechee culture and Taylor’s place within that cultural space in of Coastal Liberty County, according to Glass Hill.
“Mami Wata” is a cultural expression for “Mother-Water,” as well as an ancient religious tradition prevalent in West Africa and later in the African-Atlantic Ocean diaspora, she explained.
This is why conference organizers decided to hold the Mami Wata Rising conference within Geechee-influenced places, such as her former Reconstruction-era church, Medway Chapel, now known as Midway First Presbyterian Church, Grest Island where she was born, and visit Old Midway Meeting House where her slave owners were members and she most likely attended and sat upstairs in the slave gallery of the church, she said.
“Susie King Taylor was an intelligent, literate enslaved girl. And she is a member of this parallel Geechee community here in Midway, which was a society within society where slaves, or descendant captive Africans as well as newly captured ones had created this salient world to offset the cruelty, horrors, and vicissitudes of slavery. In their own spaces they re-created family and kinships, religion, language, foodways, medicine, nature, memory, water, love from what they remembered of their homeland Africa,” Glass-Hill said.
The conference will begin the evening of Aug. 3 with a reception. Dr. Clarissa Myrick-Harris, historian, former dean at Morehouse College in Atlanta and former Savannah State University provost is the keynote speaker.
Entertainment will be provided by Gullah Geechee musicians. Hors d’oeurves will include a low country boil sampler.
Highlights for the second day of the conference on Aug. 4 include a 5 a.m. Silent March and Water Ceremony on the Isle of Wight, where Susie King Taylor was enslaved and escaped by boat on April 13, 1862 during the Civil War. The event will conclude with a special ceremony commemorating Taylor’s 170th birthday.
For more information about the 2018 Mami Wata Rising International Conference, call 404-587-3182 or visit www.susiekingtaylorinstitute.org.