Getting to know Jacksonville’s Gullah Geechee heritage

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Sunset on the St. Johns River in downtown Jacksonville, Florida

Jacksonville, Florida, is home to some of the most vibrant examples of Gullah Geechee culture in the southeast. Gullah Geechee is an African creole language that developed among enslaved West African people from North Carolina to Florida. Learn more about Gullah Geechee culture along the East Coast Greenway.

Gullah Geechee culture extends far beyond the language - and these five attractions, all within five miles of downtown Jacksonville, can help you experience it. 

Ritz Theatre and Museum - 829 N Davis Street Though the current theatre was constructed in 1999, the building sits on the site of a 1929 movie house by the same name. The theatre still holds events and performances. The adjoining museum is a great place to learn about the Villa neighborhood, “The Harlem of The South,"  and the past, present and future of African American arts and culture in Jacksonville. 

The Cookbook - 1827 N Pearl Street (TEMPORARILY CLOSED) Check out the chalkboard for comfort food favorites like shrimp and grits and chicken and waffles. Though the restaurant is primarily open for breakfast and lunch, the restaurant also turns into a live music venue and even hosts zumba two nights a week. 

1 Foxy Lady Cafe - 1837 N Pearl Street For non-traditional southern food, especially seafood, One Foxy Lady Cafe is a great stop. If you’re looking for something sweet, the cafe has an impressive selection of pound cakes, layer cakes and pies. The restaurateur was inspired by the home-cooked meals of her mother and grandmother. The cafe also caters.

The Sweet Spot & Urban Lounge - 157 E 8th Street, Suite 118 A family business, the Sweet Spot is a unique business concept that combines homemade sweets and a mobile DJ service run by a husband and wife passionate about opportunities for people with learning disabilities. Sweet treats available include jellies, toffees, cakes and sweet breads. 

Miller’s Produce Soulfood Kitchen - 7303 N Pearl Street Blink and you might miss this kitchen that serves barbeque, chicken and ribs and other sides from a small kitchen attached to a produce stand. Check the whiteboard next to the window for the day’s menu, which often includes mac n cheese and green beans. On a sunny day, order your food from the window and settle in at one of the picnic tables.

View these (and other Jacksonville-area Gullah Geechee heritage sites) on the map below:

Our thanks to Ennis Davis for these recommendations. Davis, who lives in Jacksonville, has worked to improve urban communities through his work as Chair of the American Planning Association Florida Chapter’s First Coast Section and as a Trustee for the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. Davis is also an author, co-founder of Modern Cities, The Jaxson Magazine, TransForm Jax and a former citizen member of the Florida Times-Union editorial board.

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