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Louise Miller Cohen

Dr. Louise Miller Cohen, Is a native of Hilton Head Island.  She has become the renowned authentic  Gullah-Geechee Storyteller, historian, entertainer, teacher and preserver of the Gullah Culture and Heritage. 

From Infancy, Louise Miller was raised by Georgianna Bryan, on Hilton head Island. Ms. Bryan regaled the youngster with stories of the Gullah Culture,  their history,  songs,  shouts, and  food. 

In 2003, Ms. Cohen founded the Non-Profit Gullah Museum of Hilton Head Island. The "Little House" was restored in 2010.  Today it serves as the Gullah Museum of Hilton Head Island where Ms. Cohen is the curator. 

In 2004, she narrated documentaries including "Remnants of Mitchelville", and co-wrote the play "Seeking A Spiritual Journey" in 2005. Ms. Cohen served on the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commision from 2007 to 2013.

Ms. Cohen has received many awards, including the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award in 2007, and the Governor's Award from the South Carolina Palmetto Trust in 2010, just to name a few. In 2014, Ms. Cohen served as the primary consultant, and was also featured in the award winning documentary "Hilton Head island Back in the Day" 

​In 2016, Ms. Cohen received an Honorary Degree of Humane Letters, from the University of South Carolina for her leadership in preserving the Gullah Culture, commitment to serving the citizens of the Lowcountry, and dedication to the restoration of the "Little House".

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Nell Barnwell Hay

Nell Barnwell Hay, is a fifth generation of the Gullah people born on Hilton Head Island , SC February 23, 1951. She was delivered by her mother’s sister, her Aunt Hannah White Barnwell, the first African American nurse. She lived on Squire Pope Road until I was thirteen years old. Then, she moved to the Grassland Community to live near her Grandmother Nellie Johnson White.

She attended and is a proud alumna of an African American private boarding school, Boggs Academy in Keysville, Ga. She graduated from high school June 3, 1969. After high school she attended Benedict College in Columbia, SC. Although her heart was set on attending Fisk University, but her mother completed an application for Benedict College, and the rest they say “is history”. She further advanced her education by completing my graduate work at Pepperdine University earning her Master’s Arts of Education degree. 

She worked in Beaufort County School district her entire career, beginning as a classroom teacher. She discovered a love for helping children with their emotional and social skills development. Therefore she obtained additional educational training and transitioned to elementary and secondary guidance. She worked as a guidance counselor until her retirement from Beaufort County School District in 2012.

She then, became a board member in 2014 and severed as vice chair until 2015. I became the chairman of the board in 2015. She is very proud of the accomplishments the Gullah of Hilton Head  has made and are still making. Their mission is to revive, restore, and preserve the Hilton Head Island Gullah history for the benefit of all-least we forget.

She is married to Reverend General S. Hay, Jr.  and has two adult daughters, one Goddaughter and four grandchildren. In her spare time she loves to travel, read and spend time with her family. 

Nell invites you to come to the Gullah Museum of Hilton Head Island and learn about the true history of the Island before the bridge was built.


Meldon Hollis, Jr.

Meldon Hollis most recently served as a Visiting Professor of Political Science at Savannah State University. Prior to joining the faculty at Savannah State, he served as Associate Director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. In that capacity, he worked with federal departments and agencies to assure access and participation in federal programs for more than 100 HBCUs. His areas of responsibility included science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs, international programs, and emergency management. He served as the first Executive Director of the White House Initiative under President Carter.


Prior to joining the White House Initiative for a second time in 2009, he served as a Coordinator of Intergovernmental Affairs at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). At FEMA he also served in the Katrina Policy Group, in the Individual Assistance Branch, and as an Appeals Officer in the Public Assistance Branch. He has also served as a university administrator at the University of Maryland, Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Education at the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW), Vice President for University Relations at Texas Southern University, and in the Office of the President at Harvard University. He has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in Government, Law, Public Administration, African American Studies and Political Science at Northeastern University, University of Maryland, Howard University and Savannah State University.


His public service includes the Board of Directors of Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ) in Washington, D.C., the Board of Trustees of the Massachusetts Bay Community College, President of the Baltimore City School Commissioners, Chairman of the Board of the Baltimore Urban League and as a radio station talk show host for nine years on WEAA–FM in Baltimore. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Hilton Head Island Gullah Museum.  


He received his education at the U.S. Military Academy, the University of Maryland, Harvard University, and the University of Legon in Ghana, West Africa. He holds a master’s degree in Government and Politics from the University of Maryland, a master’s degree in Public Administration and a Juris Doctor degree from Harvard University.


He is married to Jenetha McCutcheon and lives in Hardeeville, S.C. He has lived in France and Germany and has travelled to more than 40 countries. 

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Ibrahim ‘Abdul-Malik

Ibrahim ‘Abdul-Malik, currently serves in the capacity of Treasurer for the Gullah Museum, as well as a worker with the boards Renovations Committee.  As a native Virginian, he graduated from the local public-school system (1970-1975), Attended Thomas Nelson Community College (University, 1975-1977) Drafting Move to Hilton Head Island (1977) Attended USCB Hilton Head (1990-1992) HRTM  His professional career has spanned over 50+ years in the field of the Hospitality, and Business Management, in addition to serving with the Gullah Museum, Ibrahim is the current VP of the local NAN Chapter of Hilton Head Island, a sitting member of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Preservation Task Force (HHI), in addition he serves in the capacity Imam of the oldest Masjid (Mosque) in Savannah, Ga., He  is also a “hajji” having performed the pilgrimage to Mecca in 2007.   Ibrahim is a “Cumyah” married to Mumtahanah ‘Abdul-Malik, a “Benyah” and, he is the grateful father of three children and eight grandchildren.

Brenda Haines

I am Brenda H. Williams, I serve as secretary for the Gullah Museum of Hilton Head Island. I'm a fifth generation Gullah Geechee descendant of the Burke-Ward family of Hilton Head. I'm married with 1 child Chandra Waters and 1 grandson Theron. I retired in 2013 from the International Longshoreman
Association after 31 years of service. I enjoy gardening, fishing, jewelry making, basket weaving and Worshiping and Praising God for all his Blessings towards me. Thanks


Shawnta Cohen

Shawnta Cohen, is a 6th generation native islander. She has served on the Gullah Museum of Hilton Head Island Board for the past 6 years. Shawnta presently lives in Columbia, SC and has one daughter.

Linda Ferguson

I am a retired teacher from Beaufort County Schools, a mother and grandmother. Being on the
board of the Gullah Museum of Hilton Head Island over four years has been a tremendous
experience and working alongside Sister Louise Cohen has been a true blessing.
Stroud, Oklahoma is my birthplace, but I grew up in Dos Palo, California. After graduating from
High School. I attended the University of California Santa Cruz majoring in Economics. While
attending UC Santa Cruz, I was given the opportunity to travel to South Carolina through a
program called the Cowell Extramural Education Program, taught by Dr. J. Herman Blake. The
program enabled students who were interested in education and the medical field, upon
graduation, to gain some practical experience in those areas. We not only gained experience in
our chosen fields, but also provided assistance to the communities. I knew someday I would
return to Hilton Head Island and the low country to continue the work I started during college.
I was afforded that opportunity, following my marriage to Willie Ferguson, who is now
deceased, I taught at West Hardeeville High School, M,C Riley Elementary School and obtained
a Masters in Elementary Education through the University of South Carolina.
The importance of community involvement was cemented in my soul after my college trip to
the low country. As a result I have worked with Habitat for Humanity, Ella C. White Scholarship
Committee, the Bluffton Boys & Girls Club, Central Oak Grove Youth Ministry. Palmetto Electric
Co-operative Board nominating committee and presently the Gullah Museum of Hilton Head

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Louise Miller-Cohen

Founder & Executive Director 


Nell Barnwell-Hay

Board Chair

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Meldon Hollis

Vice Chair


Brenda Haines-Williams



Ibrahim Muhammad



Linda Ferguson

Board Member


Shawnta Cohen

Board Member

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Carrie Hirsch

Board Member