Fifty-seven Sapelo Island property owners and other residents filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday alleging that discrimination and neglect by state and local authorities are dissolving the last intact Gullah-Geechee community in the nation.
The Gullah-Geechee residents are the descendants of slaves whose families have lived on Sapelo Island for more than two centuries. The lawsuit alleges that Gullah-Geechee residents are required to pay property taxes even though the local government provides essentially no services on the island.
“We want to survive on the island,” one plaintiff, 49-year-old Reginald Hall, said at a press conference outside the federal courthouse in Atlanta. “These are our homes. This is our land.”
The 135-page lawsuit was filed against a number of defendants, including McIntosh County, the state of Georgia and the Sapelo Island Heritage Authority.