- For the GPU family, see Sea Islands (GPU family).
The Sea Islands are a chain of tidal and barrier islands on the Atlantic Ocean coast of the United States. They number over 100, and are located between the mouths of the Santee and St. Johns Rivers along the coast of the U.S. states of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
Settled by indigenous cultures for thousands of years, the islands were an early site of the Spanish founding of colonial missions. Historically the Spanish influenced the Guale and Mocama chiefdoms by establishing missions in their major settlements, from St. Catherine's Island south to Fort George Island (at present-day Jacksonville, Florida). Both chiefdoms extended to the coastal areas on the mainland. The Mocama Province included territory to the St. Johns River in present-day Florida. The system ended under pressure of repeated raids by English South Carolina colonists and Indian allies. Spain ceded its territory of Florida to Great Britain in 1763.
After 18th-century European-American settlement of Georgia and Florida, planters imported enslaved Africans as laborers. Many were used to work the cotton, rice and indigo plantations on the Sea Islands. The slaves developed the notable and distinct Gullah/Geechee Creole culture and language which has survived to contemporary times. The islands now are known for resort, recreational, and residential development.
Later 19th century history 
During the American Civil War, the Union Navy and the Union Army soon occupied the islands. The white planter families had fled to other locations on the mainland, sometimes leaving behind their slaves. The blacks largely ran their own lives during this period. They had already created cohesive communities, because planter families often stayed on the mainland to avoid malaria and isolation. Many slaves worked on the rice and indigo plantations, and they had limited interaction with whites, enabling them to develop their own distinct culture. The Union Army managed the plantations and allowed plots to slaves for farming.
After President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation was effective on January 1, 1863, more than 5,000 slaves on Union-occupied islands obtained their freedom. Although they hoped to get land as compensation for having been held in slavery, the planter families soon reclaimed their properties. Many of the freedmen worked on their former plantations as sharecroppers, tenant farmers or laborers.
The islands were damaged by the Sea Islands Hurricane in 1893.
Major Sea Islands 
South Carolina 
External links 
- ^ "Mission Santa Catalina de Guale", New Georgia Encyclopedia, 2008, accessed 13 May 2010
- ^ William Klingaman, Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation, 1861-1865 (NY: Viking Press, 2001), p. 234
Coordinates: 32°10′44″N 80°44′34″W / 32.1788°N 80.7429°W