HomeTrendingThe Sobering Reason Why People Paint Shutters Blue In The South

The Sobering Reason Why People Paint Shutters Blue In The South

Many places around the world are known for their distinct appearance. 

Spain has its white buildings and terracotta. Japan has its bright red accents and curved roofs. But a few states in the US have one particular color that is equal parts fascinating, sad, and scary.

Take a stroll down any sun-kissed street in the lower states and you’ll find more than rocking chairs, sweet tea, and southern hospitality. 

It won’t take long to notice the iconic wrap-around porches and wooden shutters are often painted the same light turquoise.

When you ask any local why everyone seems to share the same palette taste, the answer is usually, “I don’t know. It’s always been that way.”

 Children grow up and paint the ceilings of their own homes in the same hue as their grandparents had. But there’s an actual reason why.

First, any old-generation citizen will swear up and down that blue will keep away bugs. 

Having this special blue around shutters and ceilings will keep people from getting nibbled on. What the grand-nanas didn’t know is that there was an extra ingredient that really did keep pests away.

Lye was a key ingredient in paint. It also kept the buzzers away. 

And, with each new layer that was spread across colonial shutters, the more bugs wanted to keep away. It just doesn’t work with modern paint anymore. The second reason is steeped in a tragic history.

Pre-synthetic blue came from a limited number of herbs and plants – and Europe was desperate to get their hands on it. 

Having indigo trees and bushes were a sign that someone had some serious wealth around them. But their cultivation could be summed up in one terrible word.

Slavery. America was pre-revolution and the boom in indigo dye meant that plantations everywhere were bringing in slaves by the masses. 

The demand got so high that landowners went to stealing extra acres. But here’s where it gets interesting…

Well near half the slaves ended up going to South Carolina, and some of the first were the Gullah people. 

Despite the nightmarish conditions, they still brought their own culture and proudly held onto it. This is where “boo hags” and “haints” came to life in the Americas.

“Haint” is the southern pronunciation of “haunt” – aka ghosts. 

The idea of angry spirits wandering the earth while looking for a human to host them was around long before Halloween. Mix that with southern superstitions, and it was “haint blue” to the rescue.

The Gullah believed that the spirits couldn’t cross water. 

So the first thing they did was paint all shutters, window frames, and doors. The idea was to block the spirits and making them think it was impassable. Next was the, now, iconic ceilings.

Ghosts would either stay closer to the ground because it’s where their prey (humans) were wandering around, or they would be “tricked” into going up because there was a wide-open sky to traverse. 

The melting pot of beliefs continued with more additions.

Christian plantation owners certainly believed in ghosts and evil spirits. 

And since blue paint was abundant, it didn’t take much convincing for them to start decorating with it. Adding white to change it to a pastel was about two things…

First, it was cheaper to cut the color with a white base. 

Second, it was closer to the wanted “sky” blue that offered them protection from ghouls and specters. Even after the indigo boom, and trades dried up, the tradition stayed on strong. So, if you ever find yourself driving around the southern states, remember this…

The Haint blue that’s plastered on nearly every home comes with a painful history. 

It’s the color of slavery and of inhuman treatment for the end-goal of profit. It’s the hue of ghosts, scary stories passed on around the fire, and something powerful…

In a time where people were persecuted for the color of their skin, the slaves of the south managed to hang on to parts of their culture and spread it through the very lands that subjugated them. 

Red might be the color of power and white a symbol of purity, but Haint Blue is the hue of amazing endurance. 


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