- Written by JENNIFER ROSE / PHOTOS BY ROB KAUFMAN
Without a bridge to the mainland, freed slaves and their descendants have shaped Daufuskie Island since the end of the Civil War. Their strong and unique Gullah culture was deeply influenced by their African heritage and remained largely isolated until the 1970s. The island had no electricity or telephone service until the 1950s, and oysters and cotton drove the economy — though today, tourism has become the most important source of income.
But Daufuskie’s history starts long before Africans and Europeans arrived. The word “Daufuskie” comes from the language of Muscogee Indians and means “sharp feather,” describing the island’s distinctive shape. Artifacts and piles of ancient oyster shells left over from that time date back more than 9,000 years.