Help Save the Ancestral Saltwater Geechee Lands on Sapelo Island, Georgia
  • Petitioning Senator Eric Johnson

This petition will be delivered to:

State Senator Dist. 1
Senator Eric Johnson
Chairwoman, Senate Ethics Committee
Senator Renee Unterman
State Senator Dist. 2
Senator Lester Jackson
Pres. CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce
Chris Clark
Attorney General of the State of Georgia
Attorney General Sam Olens
Georgia State Senate Dist. 3
Senator William Ligon
Ga. Rep 150 District
Rep. Winfred Dukes
McIntosh County Attorney for the County
Attorney Adam Poppell
Chairperson of the Commission of McIntosh County
Chairperson Kelly Spratt
Attorney General of the United States of America
Attorney General Eric Holder
GA State Senator
Senator Donzella James
Congressman Jack Kingston office
Charles Wilson
University of Georgia, President Office
Meg Aumstutz
President, University of Georgia
President MJ Adams
Harvard Law
Charles Ogletree
Harvard Law
Charles Ogletree
Atlanta bureau chief for The New York Times
kim Severson
Southern District of Georgia U.S. Attorney
Edward Tarver
Gov. State of Georgia
Gov. Nathan Deal
Commissioner, Department of Natural Resource
Commissioner Mark Williams
Rep. Roger Lane GA-167
Representative Roger Lane
Commissioner, Department of Natural Resources
Mark Williams
Zoning, Building and Ordinance McIntosh County, GA
Melvin Amerson
State Senator Dist. 3
Senator Rene D. Kemp
GA State Senator
Senator Emanuel Jones
Sec. of Dept. of Interior
Sec. Ken Salazar (Sec. of Dept. of Interior)
Georgia Governor
President of the United States
Georgia State Senate
Georgia State House
U.S. Senate
U.S. House of Representatives

Help Save the Ancestral Saltwater Geechee Lands on Sapelo Island, Georgia

    1. Reginald Hall
    2. Petition by

      Reginald Hall

      Sapelo Island, GA



Please help with the passage of a Georgia Senate Resolution that will create the Senate Preservation of Sapelo Island Study Committee

2 WHEREAS, Greater Sapelo Island of McIntosh County, Georgia, is this state's fourth largest

3 barrier island and the home of important endangered wildlife, treasured historical structures,

4 and the vanishing culture of a significant community consisting of the Geechee Gullah

5 people; and the Preservation of Sapelo Island and the Culture and Traditions of the Geechee Gullah People.

This Bill presented by Senator Donzella James will help preserve the unique Sapelo Island environment and set aside the traditional land of the Geechee Gullah people and save that land for the benefit of their members and to further preserve their culture.


Here is the information on the proposed Senate Resolution Georgia-2013-SR11-Introduced.pdf  (Senator Donzella James) for the 2013 Georgia General Assembly.  Greater Sapelo Island of McIntosh County, Georgia, is the State’s fourth largest barrier island and the home of important endangered wildlife, treasured historical structures, and the vanishing culture of a significant community consisting of the Geechee Gullah people.

Approximately 97 percent of Sapelo Island is owned by the State of Georgia and is managed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, while the remaining 3 percent of the island is under private ownership.

The Geechee Gullah people are the direct descendants of the slaves of Thomas Spalding who was the original landowner of Sapelo Island and following the conclusion of the Civil War, ownership of designated lands on the island were legally transferred to theses original freed men and women.

In 1983, Georgia law established the Sapelo Island Heritage Authority for the purpose of preserving the culture in the endangered historical areas of Sapelo Island.  Since that time a severe erosion of Geechee Gullah culture and heritage has continued to the point that it is in a state of near extinction and extensive, unregulated commercial development of the island, without ethical review or oversight, threatening not only the Geechee Gullah people but also the island’s natural resources and wildlife.

Such development has been for the personal gain of the few at the expense of all of Georgia’s citizens; and title to lands of the island is a matter of legal dispute, and the state’s current ownership may be the result of unjust enrichment at the expense of the Geechee Gullah people.

Sapelo has an abundance of historical property and archaeological sites that are in need of state funding for renovation and promotion as tourist attractions.  Much of the island is composed of natural areas which need to be under particular land use policies and protected as habitats for wildlife, nesting birds, and turtles in order to protect the beauty and tranquility of this special state resource.

Many concerned citizens, environmentalists groups, business and property owners, and the original Geechee Gullah residents are gravely concerned about the future of this beautiful island and the survival of its Native People. 

Before it is to late and the portent environmental, archaeological and historical heritage of the island are lost forever, the State of Georgia needs to immediately undertake an extensive study and proposal development regarding the funding, governance, and future of Sapelo Island.

Since much of the historical areas of Sapelo Island are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Federal Statutes regulate the development of those sites; 36 CFR 60.

Please read the following links:


Please help us by signing our petition to stop illegal land acquisition, of Sapelo Island, by state, county and private individuals in violation of individual Constitutional rights and violation of Federal Statutes. 



Recent signatures



      Reginald Hall
      Petition Organizer

      But Reginald Hall isn't buying that argument. He and his family own three properties on more than seven acres of property on the island.
      The assessed "fair market value" of their property went from $176,075 in 2011 to $910,333 in 2012. That brought on increase of more than 500% in property taxes. He is refusing to pay the taxes and he refuses to sell his family land, which he says is worth over $3 million.
      "Once you leave, you are separated from more family members ... which is a real interruption in the generational teachings on this island of the culture," he said.
      "We leave, and we're gone. Can't come back, because if we try to come back after we sell, you can't afford to buy," he told CNN.
      Cornelia Bailey said her land may be worth about $384,000, but in reality it is priceless.
      "I told one guy it was priceless, and he said everything has a price, and I said, you don't know me, this is priceless. You don't have enough money to buy it, so forget it," she said.


      Reginald Hall
      Petition Organizer

      Reed Colfax -- a partner at Relman, Dane & Colfax, one of the leading housing discrimination litigation firms in the country -- is heading full speed into court to have the tax bills struck down for at least half the residents of the island.
      "The solution is that we freeze the tax assessments, we get the services to this island, so the people can live here," he said. "Families can move back in, have children here, have jobs on the mainland, or even develop their own economy here on the island."
      Tax Assessors Board Chairman James Larkin suggests the Sapelo residents brought this issue on themselves, as some began to sell their property to developers and non-islanders who built bigger, upscale vacation homes, causing valuations to increase, and along with them their property taxes.
      "If they hadn't started selling their property, there wouldn't be a problem," he told CNN.


      Reginald Hall
      Petition Organizer

      Many have fled the island over the years because opportunity just doesn't exist there.
      Cornelia Bailey has been one of the loudest defenders of the island where she was born and raised.
      She's the ninth generation of her family to live on the island, whose slave roots are traced back to Angola. She said the taxes on her one acre property have gone from $600 a year to about $2,300.
      "All these years of getting nothing, then all of a sudden, they want to lay this tax on your back and still not give you nothing," she said.
      "For the last three years, we've been paying $128 a year for garbage collection. I don't even have my green garbage can. Where's my can?"
      She added, with a hint of anger in her voice, "You can call 911, but nobody gonna squeal up to your front door, so forget it."
      Homeowners are hiring lawyers now to have their displeasure heard in state and federal court.


      Reginald Hall
      Petition Organizer

      Sapelo Island, about the size of Manhattan, is a short 20-minute boat ride from Georgia's coast. But in some ways, it seems much farther.
      The bumpy, unpaved dirt roads are a constant reminder that this is an island with few services. There are no police officers, fire rescue personnel, doctors or hospitals. There is no school or post office. People drive their garbage to a single garbage compactor. There are no grocery stores. The gas station is open only on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
      Ninety-seven percent of the island is owned by the state of Georgia. Residents live on a small section known as Hog Hammock.
      A ferry makes three round trips each day, with the last departure from the mainland at 5:30 p.m.
      Residents can't miss that ferry if they want to work or go to school on the mainland. They complain this limits their employment opportunities and prohibits their children from participating in after-school activities.


      Reginald Hall
      Petition Organizer

      "That's part of the American history. That's part of what built this country," said Charles Hall, 79, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel who was born under a midwife's care in the same home he lives in today.
      The future of the Gullah Geechee Slaves' descendents nurture their roots
      "Sapelo being the only intact Gullah-Geechee community in the country that's left, that is a part of history. It will be a shame not to preserve" it, he told CNN.
      McIntosh County's decision to reappraise homes on the island sparked the problem.
      County Attorney Adam Poppell told CNN that the Gullah-Geechee culture is invaluable, but the properties had been historically undervalued due to errors in previous property appraisals.
      "We have to follow the law, and assess at fair market value," he told CNN.
      To fix the problem, he said, "the state has to create a special exemption for cultural communities."
      Sapelo Island, about the size of Manhattan, is a short 20-minute boat ride from Georgia's coast. But in some ways


      Reginald Hall
      Petition Organizer

      Slave descendents fight tax hikes
      Fewer than 50 of the Gullah-Geechee people remain on Georgia's coastal Sapelo Island
      After property taxes were increased by as much as 600%, many fear they will have to sell
      The community "is a part of history. It will be a shame not to preserve" it, a resident says
      "We have to follow the law, and assess at fair market value," the county attorney says

      Sapelo Island, Georgia (CNN) -- It's a culture struggling to survive. Fewer than 50 people -- all descendants of slaves -- fear they may soon be taxed out of the property their families have owned since the days of slavery.
      They are the Gullah-Geechee people of Sapelo Island off Georgia's coast, near Savannah. This small, simple community is finding itself embroiled in a feud with local officials over a sudden, huge increase in property assessments that are raising property taxes as much as 600% for some.
      Many say the increase could force them to sell their ancestral properties.

    7. CNN

      Reginald Hall
      Petition Organizer
      CNN on SIG

      Property tax avalanche threatens homeowners on historic coastal island By Rich Phillips, CNNOctober 26, 2013 -- Updated 1559 GMT Sapelo Island, Georgia (CNN) -- It's a culture struggling to survive. Fewer than 50 people -- all descendants of slaves -- fear they may soon be taxed out of the property their families have owned since the days of slavery.

    8. SALT Sapelo Ancestral Land Trust

      Reginald Hall
      Petition Organizer
      Sapelo Island, GA

      SIG Neighborhood Revitalization Division Under the Auspices: Equity in Governance Initiative SIG Public Engagement Meetings time & location vary. Email: for event information. What is Equity in Governance? The public policy process builds the capacity of neighborhood, community, faith, and small business leaders to participate in governance initiatives.

    9. Tom Joyner Morning Show on Sapelo Island

      Reginald Hall
      Petition Organizer
      Little Known Black History Fact: Sapelo Island

      PLAY AUDIO The Gullah-Geechee people of Sapelo Island are in a battle for the land of their ancestors. The local government for the area near Savannah, Georgia is requesting nearly a 600% increase in property taxes. Sapelo Island is the final community left of the Gullah-Geechee people in the United States.

    10. Reached 1,000 signatures
    11. Sapelo Island Destruction and Cultural Deprivation

      Reginald Hall
      Petition Organizer
      Hog Hammock

      Help the Geechee-Gullah people of Hog Hammock keep their land. Like our Facebook page and fight back the McIntosh County property tax.

    12. This is a blight on American Civil Rights

      Reginald Hall
      Petition Organizer
      Sapelo Island residents say property taxes could force them off ancestral land

      DARIEN, GA. - George Grovner's island property off the southeastern Georgia coast isn't fancy, just an acre of land with a double-wide mobile home on it. But he's hung onto the place long after moving to the mainland to stay connected to his roots among the slave descendants who have stayed on Sapelo Island for generations, since the Civil War ended.

    13. National Park Service website of Gullah Geechee preservation efforts

      Reginald Hall
      Petition Organizer
      Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor - Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor

      Designated by Congress in 2006, the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor extends from Wilmington, North Carolina in the north to Jacksonville, Florida in the south. It is home to one of America's most unique cultures, a tradition first shaped by captive Africans brought to the southern United States from West Africa and continued in later generations by their descendents.

    14. Reached 750 signatures
    15. Decision-maker Senator Emanuel Jones responds:

      Senator Emanuel Jones

      Please correct your records. Sen Emanuel Jones is no longer of GLBC. Also, Eric Johnson is no longer a State Senator.


      Reginald Hall
      Petition Organizer
      U.S. Dept. of Justice to hold meeting on Sapelo Island

      U.S. Dept. of Justice to hold meeting on Sapelo Island Posted: Friday, June 8, 2012 3:56 PM EST Updated: Wednesday, July 4, 2012 1:59 PM EST MCINTOSH CO., GA (WTOC) - A group from the U.S. Department of Justice is holding a public meeting Saturday on Sapelo Island.

    17. We need your letters and calls to your districts Reps. and Sen. to vote yes

      Reginald Hall
      Petition Organizer

      State of Georgia Senate
      Jan/15/2013 - Senate Read and Referred - Natural Resources and the Environment
      Jan/14/2013 - Senate Hopper

      Senate Resolution 11
      By: Senator James of the 35th

    18. Department of Justice meets with our families on Sapelo Island

      Reginald Hall
      Petition Organizer
      Department of Justice meets with Sapelo Island residents

      Representatives from the Department of Justice spent Saturday on Sapelo Island hearing concerns from residents and local officials. The six-hour long meeting was held at the Sapelo Island Senior Citizens Center. The D.O.J.'s Community Relations Service works to resolve racial tensions.

    19. We are under attack for our land!

      Reginald Hall
      Petition Organizer
      A Vanishing World

      You hold in your hands an intricate basket made of woven sweetgrass, palmetto and pinegrass and you marvel at the artistry. You listen to the murmur of a language that challenges the lexicologist's analysis, for it is a melding of many ancient cultures into a unique and musical tongue.

    20. Case Study in how black exploitation fuels wealth.

      Reginald Hall
      Petition Organizer
      On Sapelo Island, Another Case Study in How Black Exploitation Fuels Wealth - COLORLINES

      Photo: James L. Stanfield/National Geographic/Getty Images President Barack Obama gave an important speech this past Tuesday on the "modern day slavery" of human trafficking. On the very next day, The New York Times ran an article on the injustice looming over direct descendants of slaves here in the United States.


    Reasons for signing

    • Kathleen Stubelek BRUNSWICK, GA
      • 28 days ago

      The last of the Geechees live on these islands. Taxing them out of existence is morally wrong. And politically unwise. Please do what you can to help them stay on their land.

      Kathleen Stubelek

    • Emily Moran AMHERST, MA
      • 28 days ago

      These people should live on the VERY SMALL PORTION OF LAND they are on TAX FREE. They should never be pushed off their land.

    • Nedra James BLADENSBURG, MD
      • about 1 month ago

      My father was Gullah

    • Sandy Komisarek SWANTON, OH
      • about 1 month ago

      We need to cherish and preserve and promote awareness of our unique cultures and keep greedy developers at bay that otherwise would destroy every square inch of our beautiful country for the almighty dollar.

    • Christina Davis ST CHARLES, MO
      • about 1 month ago

      I'm from GA and believe we need to protect the Gullah heritage and the island.


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