Pat Conroy’s first memoir The Water is Wide and the later release of the movie based on the book which was called CONRACK (with John Voight) inspired innumerable young people to choose a teaching profession. Many of you asked what eventually happened to the students Pat Conroy taught on Daufuskie Island, later named Yamacraw in the book and movie.
If you arrived at this page you’ve certainly read Pat Conroy’s book or perhaps heard him speak about his students. Toward the end of his life he said that The Water is Wide was the favorite of all his books as it was the book that shaped him, not only as a teacher, as a writer, but we believe as a citizen. Pat had a lifelong respect for teachers and his most important mentors were the teachers who saw something in him as a boy and encouraged him to write. His loyalty to them was unshakable.
This page is our attempt to answer that so often asked question about his students. Pat recognized that these isolated black children were terribly underserved by our society. For a year they met in the tiny wood framed schoolhouse where they were mesmerized by the youthful Pat Conroy as he attempted to open up the world to them. The stories he told about the world outside of their island may have seemed like fairy tales to these children who had never ventured off the island. Pat set out to teach them, to cultivate a thirst for knowledge in them, and to take them across the water to the mainland. He was fired for his “unconventional” teaching methods. When he left the island they lost a friend. He came to love them and hated leaving them. He certainly never forgot them.
Here is Pat’s former student Sallie Ann Robinson, sixth generation Gullah from Daufuskie, who shared Pat’s love of the Lowcountry, of cooking and writing. Pat adored her and loved watching her sign copies of her cookbooks until a month or so before he died. Sallie Ann is a Gullah chef, Historian, CNA (nurse assistance) cookbook and history author, owns a tour company and also the first on Daufuskie Island to have written a book of any kind…
We’ve asked Sallie Ann to tell us what she can about the lives of her classmates. If you ever take the boat ride to Daufuskie do look her up. She is a fabulous guide. Check out Sallie Ann’s authentic Gullah Tours.
We cannot use names without permissions but here is what we generally know: There were 18 kids in Pat’s class. Three died before Pat at different time and of different reasons. One man lives in California retired on disability, three are on Daufuskie where Sallie lives. Others have different jobs in the Lowcountry area (Bluffton and Hilton Head) such as carpenter, social worker, child care teacher, store manager and golf course maintenance.