The Language You Cry In tells an amazing scholarly detective story that searches for -and finds- meaningful links between African Americans and their ancestral past. It bridges hundreds of years and thousands of miles from the Gullah people of present-day Georgia back to 18th century Sierra Leone. It recounts the even more remarkable saga of how African Americans have retained links with their African past through the horrors of the middle passage, slavery and segregation. The film dramatically demonstrates the contribution of contemporary scholarship to restoring what narrator Vertamae Grosvenor calls the "non-history" imposed on African Americans: "This is a story of memory, how the memory of a family was pieced together through a song with legendary powers to connect those who sang it with their roots."
The story begins in the early 1930s with Lorenzo Turner, an African American linguist who cataloged more than 3000 names and words of African origin among the Gullah of coastal Georgia and South Carolina. He discovered that some Gullah could recite texts in African languages, including almost certainly the longest, a five-line song he learned from a woman living in a remote Georgia fishing village.
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