Voices of Sandy Island

At Low Tide: Voices of Sandy Island shares the story of an African American island. Located in the neck of the Waccamaw River, this island is home to the descendants of the enslaved peoples who built Georgetown County into the largest rice exporter in the world during the late 18th and 19th centuries. Sandy Islanders have developed a resillient and self-reliant community that has lasted more than a century. Boats remain the only transportation between the island and the mainland, as there is no bridge connecting Sandy Island to the rest of the Waccamaw neck. The limited access between the two shores allows Sandy Island to be one of the last remaining undeveloped islands in America.

Sandy Island is a living historic space that demonstrates the importance of African American heritage to South Carolina. It's an example of how freed, self-determined communities thrived and insisted on a quality education and quality of life for themselves throughout the 20th century.


At Low Tide: Voices of Sandy Island has two complementary parts: a virtual reality documentary and a physical book. Together these components present the strengths of the island community: faith, family, and unbreakable determination. Virtual cinematography allows more individuals to virtually visit with the environment. Alongside this visual is a book that documents Sandy Island’s legacy on a journey across the Waccamaw River and through time. Discover a new perspective of rich American history hidden in plain sight.


In Georgetown County on the Waccamaw River, there is an island called Sandy Island. The Island houses an entirely self-reliant community of African Americans that build their own houses and take boats to the mainland every day. Founded by Phillip Washington, Sandy Island is one of the few African American communities that can claim to have built and sustained their own society after receiving their freedom from the abolishment of slavery.

Sandy Islanders fought for basic utilities like telephone lines, electricity, and running water in the 1960s. Before that, they fought to have their own voting precinct on the island to utilize their civic duty to vote.

Sandy Island’s community pushed its children for high educational attainment before integration, and boasted a percentage of educated women well beyond that on the mainland. The land on the Island has been passed down from generation to generation, and is now in the hands of the Island’s current residents. Faced with a steady decline in its population over the years, Sandy Island now fights to preserve its history and ready itself for the future.


360 Documentary Series

View the accompanying 360 and traditional short documentary series on Sandy Island, featuring two 360 immersive episodes and three traditional episodes.

See the Trailer

Watch the trailer for this project.

Kouri Disseration

Read up on the complete history of Sandy Island that details the growth of the island from pre-Slavery to present day.

More Readings

Want to learn even more? Here are some more readings that delve into the history of Sandy Island.


“I love Sandy Island. I wouldn't take anything for Sandy Island. All the money in the world. I go over there, New York, Washington, everywhere where I have children. I visit them, but I want to come back to Sandy Island.”

Onethia W. Elliott


The Athenaeum Press began this project on Sandy Island in 2015 with the collection of oral histories on the island. A team of students and community members created a multimedia publication, which tells the history of the people of Sandy Island. It began as a conversation on Gullah culture in Horry and Georgetown Counties, and as an extension of the previous project Gullah: The Voice of an Island. The Press sought to learn more about the local history and how it intertwined with the significant minority cultures that tell a unique story of Georgetown’s history. Since 2015, this project has expanded into the larger Sandy Island Cultural Initiative which seeks to collaborate with the Sandy Island community to preserve its history and spread its legacy.


We would like to thank the Sandy Island community, both on and off the island, for offering their time, insights and stories to our project. We'd like to especially thank Martha Cousey, Onethia Elliot, Rosalyn Geathers, Yvonne Tucker Harris, Ashanti Herriott, Laura Herriott, Braylen Nesmith, L.W. Paul, Beulah Pyatt, Charles Pyatt, Emily Collins Pyatt, Rommy Pyatt, Trenton Pyatt, Mackhi Robinson, Franklin Tucker, Xavier Tucker, and Rev. and Mrs. George Weathers.

We have had the pleasure of collaborating with them for the last two years to tell this story. We look forward to continuing to expand on this project with familiar and new faces in the years to come.

We'd also like to thank our colleagues within the Edwards College of Humanities and Fine Arts for their support, insights and dedication throughout this process.


Student Contributors

  • Quinten Ameris

    Elementary Education Major

    I am a 23 year old Elementary Education major here at Coastal Carolina University. I have always had a passion for writing and history. Beginning in 2015 I have worked alongside Dr. Eric Crawford conducting research on Sandy Island. Learning more about this special place meeting the people who live there has been a special experience for me.

    I was originally born in Washington state, however my mother, father, two sisters, and I moved to Greenville, SC in 1998 where I have been ever since. My hope for this project is to promote awareness to the cultural and historical significance of the people and land of Sandy Island.

  • Shonte Clement

    Digital Culture and Design Major

    The project interested me because I had never heard of an island housing an African American community that was entirely self-reliant. I enjoyed delving into a culture so rich with history and cultural significance. I think it is important in this political and social climate of self-determination to recognize and appreciate a Black community that has strong cultural and ancestral ties.

  • Brooks Leibee

    Graphic Design Major

    My role on the project is as the audio visual lead - filming, editing, and producing all of the documentary film and video work on the project. Being born and raised in North Myrtle Beach, fairly close to the Conway - Georgetown area, it wasn’t until I was suggested to the press that I heard about Sandy Island. Since then I’ve had such an amazing experience. Learning about, and working with, a place that holds such deep and rooted history in the state I live in.

    This project is a big part in telling the island’s story. Sandy Island is a historical landmark that deserves to be recognized.

  • Jesse Lindler

    Graphic Design Major

    I am Jesse Lindler, a Graphic Design Major at CCU. I designed the Sandy Island projects Logo, VR headset, and Packaging. This project is important to me because it helps preserve an important part of local South Carolina history that many people are not aware of.

  • Maggie Nichols

  • Jose Rangel

    Percussion Major

    I am currently attending Coastal Carolina University as a Percussion Major in the Music Education track. I was born in Las Vegas, Nevada but shortly moved to Conway, South Carolina, at three years old. From an early age, I was exposed to both the Southern culture of Horry County and the Mexican culture of my parents, who come from Guadalajara, Mexico. My passion for Music began in High School, where he participated in different Music programs, such as Choir, Symphonic Band, Jazz Band, and Marching Band. As a way to share my passion for Music with others, I picked up videography as a hobby and began recording projects focused on music. I have since worked with many of my colleagues in the Coastal Music Department to create videos of their performances. I hope to one day become a Music teacher in the public school system and continue to work more with videography.

    I chose this project because the theme of keeping family together and keeping your roots resonated with me. As a child of immigrant parents, I had to focus harder on learning and keeping alive the cultural heritage of my parents. Watching the Sandy Island residents talk about the same themes reminded me of those lessons I had briefly forgotten. I believe that is a lesson that everyone needs to be reminded of occasionally. Helping in this Sandy Island Project will express that idea and reach people who need that reminder.

  • Ronda Taylor

    Master of Arts in Writing

    Because both my parents were in the military, I moved around a lot. I didn’t have a place to call home. That’s what I love most about Sandy Island. It’s home to many. I don’t think that’s valued enough. The history, culture, and people on Sandy Island are not only valuable to South Carolina, but nationwide. This place deserves recognition.

  • Madia Walker

    Graphic Design Major

    Madia Walker is senior graphic design student at Coastal Carolina University. She plays an important in the visual design team, designing and coding our website and giving design feedback for the rest of the team. One of the main reasons she joined this project was to not just get more experience in design, but to learn more about Sandy Island and the real meaning of family and community.

  • Angelis Washington

    Community Advisor

    Angelis Pyatt Washington, a retired educator, born and reared on Sandy Island, worked as a business teacher for the Florence School District #3, Williamsburg County School District and as a part-time teacher for Williamsburg Technical College. As a graduate for the Penn School of Preservation, she spends time working with the South Carolina Coastal Community Development Board as its VP. She also dedicates her time to her church, New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church and to her Sorority.

  • Haley Yarborough

    Photographer, Graphic Design Major

    Being born and raised in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, I’ve learned a lot about both southern and local culture. With that said, I hadn’t specifically heard about Sandy Island until I was asked to join the project as a photographer. Photography has been my passion for nearly 10 years and this project is the type of thing I really love to do. From the beginning, I felt an instant interest and excitement and learning more about Sandy Island from its inhabitants and having the opportunity to visit has been incredible. It has been my pleasure to capture and help visually document for this project and the community of Sandy Island.

Faculty Advisors

  • Eric Crawford, Assistant Professor of Music, Coastal Carolina University
  • Alli Crandell, Project Manager, The Athenaeum Press, and Director of Digital Initiatives
  • Scott Mann, MFA Design and Production Manager, The Athenaeum Press, and Associate Professor of Visual Arts
  • Trisha O’Connor, Director, The Athenaeum Press and Media Executive-in-Residence