Pin Point – Black Heritage along the Gullah-Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor

Pin Point Heritage Museum
Rendering of Pin Point Heritage Museum, Savannah Tribune

Pin Point is a small African-American community located just southeast of Savannah that has been struggling to maintain its black heritage and lifestyle. First settled in about 1896, the community prospered when Varn Seafood located a processing plant there in 1926, and for the next 60 years life was, well, idylic. Now part of the Gullah-Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, the tiny hometown of Supreme Court Justice Clarence aims to tell the story of freed Sea Islands slaves who founded Pin Point, and to preserve what may be the last piece of Georgia coastline still owned mostly by African-Americans.

A quote from the book, Drums & Shadows, c. 1940, describes 1930’s Pin Point as “a negro community about nine miles southeast of Savannah, is scattered over some twenty or thirty acres on a peninsula overlooking Shipyard Creek. Many of the small wooden cabins are neatly whitewashed and rare half hidden by shrubbery and spreading oaks.  Flowers and vegetables are planted in the most advantageous sunny spots near the houses and most of the yards are enclosed by picket fences, giving a cosy and pleasant privacy. The lanes, little more than wagon tracks, twist in and out and across the settlement. The informal and haphazard scattering of the houses, with high shrubbery bordering the lanes, gives an effect that is pleasing and unusual…

“The people are, almost without exception, black or dark skinned, proud, upstanding and loyal, suspicious of strangers but generous and trusting to friends….The grown people….are still close to the traditions and beliefs in which they have been reared. Firmly believing in the Bible, they’re still aware of other beliefs and customs handed down by their parents and grandparents.”  (p. 82-82, 1986 Brown Thrasher Edition by UGA Press).

Resident Bill Haynes, who grew up with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas‘s mother Leola, noted that most of the homes didn’t have locks and in Ken Foskett’s book, Judging Thomas (Harper Collins 2004) said “You didn’t have to worry about anybody taking anything. We were poor, but I guess we didn’t know it.” People in Pin Point survived the Great Depression partially because the people grew their own vegetables – okra, collard greens, tomatoes,and corn, and hunted raccoons and opossums. The river was full of fish as well as crabs and oysters.  The Varn seafood cannery provided at least a meager income.  From the book Clarence Thomas: Supreme Court Justice by Norman L. Macht, (1995: Chelsea House Publishers, NY and Philadelphia) comes this quote: “…Looking back 40 years later, he [Clarence Thomas] said, “I keep hearing this connection between disorder and poverty. We were poor but proud. You didn’t see disorder.”……

Pin Point declined in the years following the closing of the Varn Seafood Plant, but the Pin Point Betterment Association has been very active in preserving the way of life, the history and heritage of Pin Point residents. The Assocationa led the successful effort to have Pin Point designated as Chatham County’s first Historic District under the guidance of its presidents, who come from local families.  Today Pin Point is also a part of the Gullah Geechee National Heritage Corridor and has built a Heritage Museum on the grounds of the old Varn Seafood plant.

During the entire month of January and February Azalea Inn and Gardens is partnering with three other Savannah Inns in a tribute to Black History month. Reserve your Black Heritage vacation package online today, or call 800.582.3823 for more details.

Azalea Inn and Gardens is the bed and breakfast of choice in the Historic Landmark District of Savannah, Georgia.