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. With the new land values placed on Sapelo, taxes have gone from $600 to $2,300 for one resident. This is a significant increase for a population that is limited by mainland work that must end by the last ferry ride at 5 p.m.
According to the state of Georgia, the properties have been deeply undervalued and have to be assessed at the right level. There are also requests for vacation homes on the island. The state owns nearly all of the land, with the exception of a small section called Hog Hammock where the residents live. There is no retail on Sapelo, only a gas station that’s open two days a week. There is no emergency response system or trash collection on Sapelo.
The lands of Sapelo Island have been home to generations of the Gullah-Geechee people, dating back to the mid-1800’s when their descendants were brought from Africa. Nine generations of relatives from one family have died and lived on the Sapelo lands that many residents are refusing to sell.