3. Haint Blue

It’s not uncommon to find many houses throughout Jacksonville’s urban core featuring haint blue porch ceilings, window frames, shutters and doors. Originating from traditional Gullah Geechee culture, a haint is a restless wandering spirit, trapped between life and death. Many believe that a haint blue color resembling the sky would protect occupants in the home by drawing the spirits up and away. Others believe that spirits would be blocked from entering the home because they can’t cross over water, and would be confused by the blue colors around window and door openings. Whatever the belief, the Gullah custom of applying a haint blue around entrances is alive and well throughout the American South.

4. Shrimp & Grits

*Shrimp & Grits at Gilbert’s Social. Courtesy of Anna Eatz Jacksonville and Beyond *

Originally created by Native Americans through the grounding of corn, grits were passed on to the Gullah people as a part of their food allowance provided by plantation owners. Maximizing local resources along the coast, Gullahs caught and used shrimp and fish in a variety of ways, including combining them with grits. What was once a simple Gullah meal prepared by using food allowances, natural seasonings and readily accessible low country seafood is now a staple of Southern cuisine and a pricey dish on the menu of Jacksonville’s trendy restaurants.

5. Seafood Boil

A seafood boil in preparation courtesy of K and K Mobile Food.

Many classic Southern dishes served at Jacksonville restaurants are actually derived from Gullah Geechee culture. One-pot dishes and other recipes featuring shellfish and locally cultivated rice and fresh vegetables, forming a hodgepodge of flavors, are a cultural foundation of Gullah Geechee cuisine. Many of these one-pot dishes involved the deep frying, boiling, steaming and baking of seafood and food types consistent with those received in weekly plantation rations. The seafood boil is an example of a popular one-pot dish that took advantage of ingredients that were readily available locally and could be quickly prepared and cook. Garlic crabs are a popular local variation of the boil that involves serving seafood in a garlicky butter sauce.

To learn more about Northeast Florida’s Gullah Geechee heritage, here are a few sites well worth the visit:

Kingsley Plantation

Fort Mose Historic State Park, St. Augustine, FL

Kingsley Plantation, Jacksonville, FL

Lincolnville Museum and Cultural Center, St. Augustine, FL

Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor

Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Davis is a certified senior planner and graduate of Florida A&M University. He is the author of the award winning books “Reclaiming Jacksonville,” “Cohen Brothers: The Big Store” and “Images of Modern America: Jacksonville.” Davis has served with various organizations committed to improving urban communities, including the American Planning Association and the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. A 2013 Next City Vanguard, Davis is the co-founder of Metro Jacksonville.com and ModernCities.com — two websites dedicated to promoting fiscally sustainable communities — and Transform Jax, a tactical urbanist group. Contact Ennis at edavis@moderncities.com