You can’t tell America’s story without telling the Gullah story.
BY LUANA M. GRAVES SELLARS | PHOTOS BY WILLIE J. RICE PHOTOGRAPHY
Run by the Campbell family since 1996, this Hilton Head Island company strives to educate the public about the island’s rich Gullah heritage, traditions and place in America’s history. The desire to preserve Gullah traditions is the heart of their mission. The roughly 15 members of the family involved in the company span more than three generations.
The tour company grew out of C&W Connection, an island tour company run by Reginald Campbell and Sarah Williams in 1971. Today, siblings Emory, David and Melvin Campbell carry on their parents’ work as leaders at Gullah Heritage Tours.
Each generation of the family is represented in the company’s daily operations. When Campbell children enter middle school, they begin internships that give them on-the-job training and experience. As they get older, they work on administrative tasks and ultimately as narrators and tour drivers, creating an investment in the business and growing their knowledge base and sense of inclusion. According to DeAnna Holmes, the company’s receptionist and potential tour guide, the family works hard to make sure the younger generations are “doing all that they can to get it right. It’s important, because it’s what our uncles lived.”
“We are here to be job creators, not job workers,” said Sidrowe Jackson, the chairman of the company’s marketing committee. “Our work is significant to sharing our history. We began promoting heritage tourism before it even had a name. It’s important to let people know that we were around before all of that developed. You can’t tell America’s story without telling the Gullah story.”
The business is more than a paycheck for the family, however. It’s a tie that binds the family together and helps connect younger generations to the family’s Hilton Head roots while preserving the island’s Gullah heritage.
Running a business is difficult, whether family is involved or not. But for the Campbells, adding family to the mix has been nothing but positive, especially when it comes to conveying the importance of the Gullah culture.
“As a child, I didn’t realize how special being on the island was,” DeAnna said. “Being able to work for the family business and to share our history is a joy.”
For more information about Gullah Heritage Trail Tours, go to www.gullaheritage.com.
FAMILY BUSINESS FACTS:
- Family businesses generate over 50 percent of the US Gross National Product (GNP).
- Family businesses generate 62 percent of the country’s employment.
- One-third of all companies in the S&P 500 index are defined as family businesses.