Talking to the Dead

Religion, Music, and Lived Memory among Gullah/Geechee Women

Talking to the Dead

Book Pages: 304 Illustrations: 1 table, 2 maps, 1 figure Published: June 2014

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Religious Studies

Talking to the Dead is an ethnography of seven Gullah/Geechee women from the South Carolina lowcountry. These women communicate with their ancestors through dreams, prayer, and visions and traditional crafts and customs, such as storytelling, basket making, and ecstatic singing in their churches. Like other Gullah/Geechee women of the South Carolina and Georgia coasts, these women, through their active communication with the deceased, make choices and receive guidance about how to live out their faith and engage with the living. LeRhonda S. Manigault-Bryant emphasizes that this communication affirms the women's spiritual faith—which seamlessly integrates Christian and folk traditions—and reinforces their position as powerful culture keepers within Gullah/Geechee society. By looking in depth at this long-standing spiritual practice, Manigault-Bryant highlights the subversive ingenuity that lowcountry inhabitants use to thrive spiritually and to maintain a sense of continuity with the past.


"Talking to the Dead is an incredibly rich study, which will reward both a general readership and readers from a range of disciplinary backgrounds." — Teresa Zackodnik, Feminist Review

"LeRhonda Manigault-Bryant’s Talking to the Dead is well suited for the novice who is unaware of any of the traditions and religious practices of the Gullah/Geechee.... Because of its emphasis on black women, the ethnography also has much to offer to the black feminist or black womanist scholar, especially one with an interest in African Diasporic culture or African derivative belief systems." — Constance Bailey, Western Folklore

"While talking to the dead, as well as other less ‘flashy’ Gullah/Geechee practices risk being lost in application, Manigault-Bryant and other third generation scholars have ensured they will not be completely erased through an increasingly sophisticated historiography accounting for the diverse perspectives of African American women in the South Carolina lowcountry." — Douglas R. Valentine, Religion

"This masterful interweaving of these personal narratives of Gullah/Geechee women with the spiritual practice of talking to the dead, particularly in light of the present-day commodification of Gullah/Geechee culture (offered in the terminating chapter) in South Carolina, is the overall strength of this work.... This book, then, is a must read for advanced students and scholars in these areas of study." — Margarita Simon Guillory, Religious Studies Review

"...Talking to the Dead is a welcome addition to scholarship on the Gullah/Geechee culture and African American religious practices in general....Most importantly, Talking to the Dead not only lays the groundwork for further investigation into the gender dymanics of longstanding Gullah-Geechee religiosity, but also underscores the fact that no study of African American religion can be complete without a thorough investigation of women as believers, practitioners, and cultural leaders." — Shannen Dee Williams, Journal of African American History

"LeRhonda S. Manigault-Bryant has produced a masterful work of scholarship that not only provides a unique analysis of 'lived' history and religion in the lives of contemporary African American women but also bears witness to the power of human creativity, expressed through imagination, memory, and performance. By crafting such an adept narrative, Manigault-Bryant draws the reader into a compelling story that balances her subjective experiences with a new and productive methodological approach." — Yvonne P. Chireau, author of Black Magic: Religion and the African American Conjuring Tradition

"An interesting ethnography that is in conversation with other studies on Gullah culture, Talking to the Dead goes beyond previous scholarship by highlighting the spirituality of contemporary Gullah women." — Margaret Washington, author of Sojourner Truth's America


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

LeRhonda S. Manigault-Bryant is Assistant Professor of Africana Studies at Williams College.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Prologue. Talking to the Dead xiii

Introduction. Gullah/Geechee Women 1

1. Culture Keepers 24

2. Folk Religion 66

3. "Ah Tulk to de Dead All de Time" 104

4. "Sendin' Up My Timbah" 136

5. Lived Memory 172

Epilogue. Between the Living and the Dead 205

Appendix A. Companion Audio Materials 211

Appendix B. Interview Format and Demographics 213

Notes 217

Select Bibliography 251

Index 267
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5674-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5663-9
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