Uncover the Incredible History of Liberty County’s Rice and the Rich Culture it Carries Today
It’s not often we think of how everyday items came to exist so readily in our world or how they became such a staple. One staple that holds historical and cultural significance to our coastal community is rice. It’s not unknown that the low country as a whole has an extensive history related to the rice industry but many may not know how much rice influenced Liberty County!
Tucked away in the marsh grass you will find one of our hidden coastal gems, Riceboro. The oldest existing city in Liberty County, it’s easy to spend an afternoon riding through this quiet community on winding dirt roads with scenic glimpses of coastline. But Riceboro is more than what meets the modern eye! It was once a bustling agricultural haven for rice plantations and actually received the name Riceboro due to the rice being grown here.
You won’t find fields of rice anymore but the heritage influenced by the rice industry is still prominent today and proudly shared!
Photo courtesy of John Henderson
The early colonists discovered how perfect the coastline was for growing rice, but weren’t sure how to be successful in the industry. So, when searching for workers, they sought people who knew how to plant, harvest and process rice. Those people were predominantly from the western coast of Africa, also known as the “Rice Coast,” from Senegal down to Sierra Leone.
The people brought over from those places influenced the Gullah people who are still prominent in coastal areas of the United States, including our very own Liberty County. The Gullah Geechee have strong ties with their African cultural heritage to include names, a creole language, handicrafts and folktales. In coastal Georgia, the Gullah folks are actually referred to as Geechee and are the people who have the only distinctly African creole language in the United States.
In 2007 Riceboro hosted the first event created to bring the community together to celebrate, embrace and learn about the history of the area. RiceFest provides education and entertainment honoring the heritage and cultural influence that was formed from the local rice industry and the Gullah people. Each year there are lots of different things that take place to include a rice cook-off, beauty pageant and a homecoming dance – but the most important part that happens every year is the celebration of Riceboro and the Gullah Geechee people.
RiceFest activities will span over the week of November 2 – 9 this year; for more information please contact Riceboro City Hall at 912.884.2986.