In 2017 Mayor John Tecklenburg requested that the Gullah Society assist in the reburial of thirty-six individuals uncovered in 2013 during construction at the Gaillard Center on George Street in downtown Charleston. Over the following two years we worked with the City of Charleston, the College of Charleston, colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania and other partners to provide a series of 'Community Conversations', conduct ancient DNA research into the ancestry of the 36 ancestors and a study of genetic diversity in Charleston today, and facilitate an education and arts program, in preparation of the reinterment (reburial). The ancestors were reburied on May 4th, 2019.
The discovery of our ancestors provided a significant opportunity to reconcile this past and honor the people that were buried on this sacred ground. The remains of the thirty-six, probably African-descended, individuals are the earliest burials found in Charleston so far, dating to 1760-1800. We were awarded three grants from the National Geographic Society to conduct ancient DNA analyses and community engagement. Our research and engagement programs built upon archaeological and historical research already completed to help us learn more about the 36 individuals and rebury them with appropriate honor and respect. Community Conversations were held at various community venues in and around Charleston and were free and open to all.