Virginia Geraty papers
The collection contains personal and professional documents, manuscripts and literary productions, correspondence, clippings, and other materials relating to Geraty’s lifelong work of preserving and teaching the Gullah language. Materials in the collection date from 1915–2007, with bulk dates spanning the years 1978–2004.
Series 1. Biographical and Professional Material, 1915-2004, undated includes Geraty’s certificate of baptism, biographies and obituaries; photographs, business correspondence concerning her family’s farm, as well as copies of her curriculum vitae and documents concerning her employment with the College of Charleston. The series also consists of certificates and a plaque, which were awarded to Geraty throughout her professional career. A recorded oral history interview with Geraty and accompanying interview transcriptions can also be found in the series.
Series 2. Educational and Instructional Material, 1964-2001, undated is comprised of documents pertaining to Gullah language instruction. Gullah language and grammar lessons; an instructional resource book written by Geraty for teachers called, A Teacher’s Guide to the Gullah Language; and essays on Black English, Gullah speech, and the state of South Carolina’s education system are contained within the series. Also included are student work, correspondence, and materials relating to Geraty’s proposal for implementing Gullah language workshops in the Charleston County School District.
Series 3. Literary Productions, 1962-2005, undated contains stories, poems and other writings in English and Gullah; research documents on the stages of a bible translation project, as well as translated bible scriptures; speeches, notes and original manuscripts of some of her published works, including: Bittle en’ Ting, Gullah Cooking with Maum Chrish’, Charleston’s Highlights, Sidelights and Shadows from 1670 to 1995 and Gullah Fuh Oonuh: A Gullah/English Dictionary. The series also consists of 227 notebooks documenting Geraty’s activities with regard to authoring literature, developing curriculum for Gullah language instruction, film and theater productions, and museums. CDs and floppy disks containing literary research and works written by Geraty are included in the series as well.
Series 4. Drawings and Illustrations, 1985-1997, undated consists of ink and pencil sketches, color drawings and illustrations, drawings and cutouts from a child and sketches from Geraty’s illustrated children’s book, A Gullah Night Before Christmas.
Series 5. Porgy, A Gullah Version, 1987-2002, undated includes ephemera from the production, such as flyers, invitations and souvenir booklets; annotated scripts and music from the play; as well as production descriptions, notes, summaries, and a study guide. In addition, the series contains book reviews of Geraty’s translated version of the play and newspaper clippings consisting of play reviews and articles on the production. Cast photographs, stage layouts and scenery drawings, production notes, correspondence, royalty statements and other financial material are also part of this series.
Series 6. Financial and Legal Material, 1979-2004, undated contains a business license for Geraty’s company, Gullah Gap; grant program applications and guidelines from DSP and the South Carolina Humanities Council; invoices, agreements, copies of checks including one from actress, Cicely Tyson; tax documents and financial notes; annual statements, as well as royalty statements and reports. The series is also comprised of financial records and legal documents pertaining to Cabbage Row Company Inc.
Series 7. Printed Material and Ephemera, 1932-2007, undated includes magazine and news clippings pertaining to Geraty’s professional and literary accomplishments, as well as topics concerning education in schools and for black students, understanding and preserving Gullah culture, letters to the editor and event announcements. In addition, the series encompasses pamphlets flyers, booklets, brochures, scrapbooks and other ephemera collected and created throughout her life.
Series 8. Correspondence, 1976-2007, undated is comprised of personal and professional correspondence including letters from the Charleston County Public School system and the State Department of South Carolina regarding her developing a Gullah language curriculum for South Carolina schools; from audience members at her speaking engagements and admirers requesting copies of her literary works. Also, includes a letter from White House Staff Assistant, Landon Kite, thanking Geraty on behalf of President and Mrs. Carter for the birthday gift she sent to them. Thank you letters, letters documenting her work with the College of Charleston’s Continuing Education Program, as well as those documenting her study of the Gullah language at academic institutions in the South are also present in the series.
Series 9. Miscellaneous, 1980-2001, undated contains a resume and biographical information for participants in a professional exchange/cultural exchange program and visitor service program. The series is also comprised of various address, phone and to-do lists, as well as maps.
Series 10. Audio-Visual Material, 1979-2004, undated is comprised of cassette tapes documenting college lectures, presentations and workshops on Gullah; recordings of Geraty’s publications, Gullah Night Before Christmas, Tenk Gawd for Charleston, and Gullah for Oonuh; as well as of Cabbage Row Company, Inc.’s funding meetings and script readings/dialogue from her production, Porgy, A Gullah Version. The series also consists of VHS tapes, including a home movie of Geraty speaking about the Gullah language from her living room; footage of her reading Gullah stories to children and presenting on Gullah language at Francis Marion College; and videos of externally produced television programs on Gullah from National Geographic Explorer and Talkback on WCSC-TV. Additionally, the series includes videotapes of play interviews, practice curtain calls and College of Charleston classroom scenes from Geraty’s Porgy, A Gullah Version; as well as news coverage of her funeral in 2004.
- Majority of material found within 1978-2004
Language of Materials
Material in English (and Gullah dialect)
Materials containing personal financial information from Series 6 are restricted. Also, 5 ¼ in. floppy disks in series 3.3 are inaccessible.
The nature of the Avery Research Center's archival holdings means that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine despite reasonable efforts. The Avery Research Center claims only physical ownership of most archival materials.
The materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. copyright law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source.
Virginia Mixson Geraty was born on June 9, 1915 in Summerville, South Carolina to Edward Miles Mixson, who was in the real estate and insurance business, and his wife Ethel Sarah Ray Mixson of Charleston. Geraty attended Immaculate Catholic School at Hendersonville, North Carolina, where her family lived during her childhood. Following the death of her father, she and her family moved to Yonge’s Island. It was there at her grandmother’s home on the island that Geraty became interested in Gullah; when she became acquainted with a servant named, Maum Chrish and Chrish’s grandson, Jobie. She married James Ray Geraty when she was eighteen years old; he was a grandson of William C. Geraty, co-founder with Frank W. Towles of a trucking farm in Charleston County. There were four children from this marriage: Joyce Marie Massenberg, Virginia Ray Evans, Judith Ann Hicks and James Ray Geraty, Jr., who died in childbirth. In 1947, she married Charles Cooper Geraty, a double first cousin of her first husband-- he died in 1970. There were two children from this second marriage: Charlotte Mixson Callis and Edward Mixson Geraty. Geraty lived for over fifty years in the Yonges Island and Edisto area near Charleston, where she studied the language and culture of the Gullah people who lived on these islands. She was dedicated to the preservation of the Gullah language, which is the only English-based creole used in the continental United States. For twenty years she was employed as a librarian in the Charleston County District schools. During this time, she was able to learn from the large number of African American people in the area who used the language as their mother tongue.
Geraty not only spoke the language, but studied its grammar and syntax—and even mastered the art of writing it. Her first publication was Mistuh Adam en’ Ebe (1977) and her second publication, T’engk Gawd fuh Chaa’stun, won first place in its category in a contest sponsored by the Poetry Society of South Carolina and the College of Charleston (1978). She also made a Gullah record called Maum Chrish’ Chaastun. Other publications by Geraty include Bittle en’ T’ing (Victuals and Other Things), and Porgy: A Gullah Version from Wyrick and Company. She also produced an unabridged dictionary of 2000 words and idiomatic expressions with Brent Douglas Galloway, which was written and defined according to the International Phonetic Alphabet.
Her accomplishments and honors are numerous; she was awarded the Pegasus Prize of the Poetry Society of South Carolina in 1980 and a 1984 nominee for Poet Laureate of South Carolina. She worked with the Summer Institute of Linguistics and was a translator for the Gullah edition of the Bible. She was a Gullah consultant for Charleston Adventure Voice of America, Catch the Song and Gullah Tales — one of three live action short films nominated for an Academy Award in 1989. She also served as dialect coach for Tales of the Unknown South, and the BBC production of The Story of English. Geraty held memberships in the Modern Language Association, the South Atlantic Modern Language Association, the National League of American Penwomen, the Poetry Society of South Carolina, the South Carolina Historical Society, the International Platform Association, the South Carolina Retired Educators Association, the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History, and Avery Institute, connected with the College of Charleston.
Geraty was an adjunct professor of Gullah at the College of Charleston and received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the college in 1995. She received the South Carolina Committee for the Humanities in 1998, was a finalist for the Aegis Award of Excellence in 1999 for Porgy: A Gullah Version and was inducted into Kappa Delta Phi, the international honor society at the Citadel in Charleston in 2000. Geraty died on November 27, 2004; she was eighty-nine years old.
SOURCES: Avery Research Center collection folders: Virginia M.Geraty Papers, 1915-2007
10.1 linear feet (11 archival boxes, 44 audio cassettes, 12 VHS cassettes, and 7 computer storage disks)
Virginia Mixson Geraty (1915-2004) was born in Summerville, South Carolina to Edward Miles Mixson and his wife Ethel Sarah Ray Mixson. Geraty attended Immaculate Catholic School at Hendersonville, North Carolina, where her family lived during part of her childhood. After the passing of her younger brother and father, Geraty and her family moved to Yonges Island, South Carolina. It was there on the island that Geraty became interested in Gullah, when she heard it being spoken by a family servant named, Maum Chrish. Geraty lived for over fifty years in the Yonges Island and Edisto area near Charleston, where she studied the language and culture of the Gullah people who lived there. She was dedicated to the preservation of the Gullah language, which is the only English-based creole used in the continental United States. Geraty served as a librarian for twenty years with the Charleston County District schools and became an adjunct professor of Gullah at the College of Charleston, where she received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the college in 1995. She authored poetry and books in Gullah, and also produced popular recordings in the language. In addition, she was involved in theater and film productions that promoted popular understanding of the language, such as Gullah Tales and Porgy: A Gullah Version.
The collection contains personal and professional documents, manuscripts and literary productions, correspondence, clippings, and other materials relating to Geraty’s lifelong work preserving and teaching the Gullah language. Materials in the collection date from 1915–2007, with bulk dates spanning the years 1978–2004.
1. Biographical and Professional Material, 1915-2005, undated
2. Educational and Instructional Material, 1964-2001, undated
3. Literary Productions, 1944-2005, undated 3.1 General, 1944-2003, undated 3.2 Notebooks, 1962-2005, undated 3.3 Computer Storage Disks, 1997-2003, undated
4. Drawings and Illustrations, 1985-1997, undated
5. Porgy, A Gullah Version, 1987-2002, undated
6. Financial and Legal Material, 1979-2004, undated
7. Printed Material and Ephemera, 1932-2007, undated 7.1 Newspaper and Magazine Clippings, 1932-2007, undated 7.2 Ephemera, 1978-2001, undated 7.3 Scrapbooks, 1978-1987, undated
8. Correspondence, 1976-2007, undated
9. Miscellaneous, 1980-2001, undated
10. Audio-Visual Material, 1979-2004, undated 10.1 Cassette Tapes, 1979-1998, undated 10.2 VHS Tapes, c.1980-2004, undated
The following published books or monographs were moved to the Avery Research Center Library Collection: Geraty, V. M. (1992). Bittle en' t'ing': Gullah cooking with Maum Chrish'. Orangeburg, S.C: Sandlapper Pub.
Geraty, V. M., & Rice, J. (1998). Gullah night before Christmas. Gretna, La: Pelican Pub. Co.
Geraty, V. M. (2001). A teacher's guide to the Gullah language. Charleston, S.C: V.M. Geraty.
Heyward, D., Geraty, V. M., & Heyward, D. B. (1990). Porgy: A Gullah version. Charleston [S.C.]: Wyrick.
Sea Island Translation and Literacy Team., Summer Institute of Linguistics., & Wycliffe Bible Translators. (1995). De Good Nyews bout Jedus Christ wa Luke write: The Gospel according to Luke. New York: American Bible Society.
Materials were donated by Judith Geraty Hicks, Virginia Geraty Evans, Joyce Massenburg, and Edward Mixson Geraty.
Restricted Materials have been separated.
Processed by Ardra Whitney and Aaron Spelbring, April 2014 Edited by Aaron Spelbring, April 2014 Encoded by Aaron Spelbring, April 2014
- African Americans -- Poetry
- African Americans -- Sea Islands -- Social life and customs
- African Americans -- South Carolina -- Charleston
- Charleston (S.C.) -- Drama
- Charleston (S.C.) -- History
- Creole dialects, English -- South Carolina
- Education -- South Carolina -- Charleston
- Geraty, Virginia Mixson
- Gullah cooking
- Gullah women
- Gullahs -- History
- Gullahs -- South Carolina -- Folklore
- Gullahs -- South Carolina -- Social life and customs
- McGehearty family
- National League of American Pen Women
- Sea Islands Creole dialect -- Dictionaries -- English
- Sea Islands Creole dialect -- South Carolina
- Sea Islands Creole dialect -- Study and teaching
- Sea Islands Creole dialect -- Texts
- South Carolina Educational Television Network
- Geraty, Edward Mixson (Donor, Person)
- Hicks, Judith Geraty (Donor, Person)
- Evans, Virginia Geraty (Donor, Person)
- Massenburg, Joyce (Donor, Person)
- Inventory of the Virginia M. Geraty Papers, 1915 - 2007 AMN 1123
- Finding aid prepared by Ardra Whitney and Aaron Spelbring
- Description rules
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Description is in English
Part of the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture Repository
125 Bull Street
Charleston South Carolina 29424 United States