Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Barbara J. Thayer-Bacon

Committee Members

Harry F. Dahms, Judson C. Laughter, Madhuri Sharma


The purpose of this dissertation is to answer two research questions: First, what educational opportunities did the construction of the James F. Byrnes bridge built in 1956, connecting Hilton Head Island to the mainland afford the Native Islanders? Secondly, how did the building of the bridge to Hilton Head impact the traditional lifestyles of the Native Islanders?This is a narrative qualitative study, using an unstructured interview process that collects the story of Joseph Grant, a Hilton Head Island native. This narrative research project is uniquely important as there is little recorded history of what life on Hilton Head Island was like from Native Islanders’ perspectives. The researcher, who is also his daughter, has the unique opportunity to capture Mr. Grant’s story. While she was not born on the island, she did finish growing up there, and continues to return to her family’s original land, where her father still lives. Several conversations with Joseph Grant provide insight into his life of long-standing traditions, respect for the land on which he lives, that he has toiled, and that provided him family strength while growing up on the island prior to the late 1950s. Joseph Grant left the island, first for a college education in Savannah, Georgia before departing the South entirely to acquire experience as an educator for New York and New Jersey school systems. He returned to the island to live after the passing of his father, which enables him to offer a perspective of the transformation of Hilton Head that is different from those who have remained behind. The “before” and “after” effects of the bridge construction are viewed from cultural studies, sociological, and critical race perspectives. Joseph Grant’s detailed outlook serves the purpose of addressing the research questions concerning what the impact the bridge connecting Hilton Head to the mainland had for the Native Islanders in terms of access to formal education, as well as the effects of gentrification on island traditions due to large-scale resort-style development.

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