The tradition traces back to the 1700s. These women are fighting to keep it alive through online retail.

(CNN)Many African cultures in the United States have been fighting to keep their traditions and unique way of life alive, and now, an online retail outlet is helping the Gullah community in Charleston, South Carolina, use tech to reach a wider audience.

It used to be the only way to purchase one of the exquisite, handmade baskets unique to the culture was to physically go to markets in South Carolina. The artists relied on tourists to come see their pieces, and some of the weavers told CNN the income was less than steady.
The tradition goes back to the 1700's when slaves from West Africa were brought to the United States. They were forced to work in rice paddies, cotton fields and indigo plantations along the South Carolina-Georgia seaboard, where the moist climate and fertile land were very similar to their African homelands.
    After the abolition of slavery, the Gullah community settled in remote villages around the coastal swath, where, thanks to their relative isolation, they formed strong communal ties and a unique culture that has endured for centuries.
      One of Vera Mae Manigault's creations. Her signature is weaving with color.

      A tradition kept alive for generations to remember where they came from

      When the pandemic hit, Annie Cayetano-Jefferson, a sixth generation Gullah basket weaver, explored how to get their products online, and then Etsy, a popular online retailer, stepped in with Nest, a nonprofit that cultivates responsible growth and creative engagement of the artisan and maker economy, to elevate their platform and exposure.
      Cayetano-Jefferson said her family has been making pieces of art and selling them in the Charleston city market for more than 35 years, and their family's unique weaving style has been passed down for generations.
        "I have been weaving baskets since I was about five or six years old. We still harvest our own materials. We still dry it. We do everything from start to finish," she said.
        "We sell baskets because we want to honor our ancestors, and we don't want to forget where we came from in the past and what those before us have paid for us. We want to just take advantage of what already comes natural."

        For the first time their work isn't relying on tourists

        Each family has their own style of weaving that can be identified by other families.
        Etsy saw the work of 16 women and decided to help build shops on their website via their Uplift Initiative, which aims to bring more economic opportunities to creative entrepreneurs.
        "We're really trying to enable renowned, but often economically disenfranchised communities, to help showcase their work and build an online presence," Dinah Jean, Senior Manager of Social Innovation for Etsy told CNN.
        "We see it as an opportunity to drive economic resources to the communities by establishing a direct-to-consumer presence that really can help build a pipeline of long-term economic success for the weavers, their families, and their communities."
        The company provided all of the marketing the weavers need to set up their shops and provided trainers who helped them understand how to build a site and how to manage it effectively with photos and customer service.
        The Gullah weavers are the second group Etsy has helped market through online sales. The Gee's Bend Alabama quilters made $300,000 in sales in the first six months. Their quilts are hand-sewn and considered a crucial contribution to the history of American art, according to Etsy.
        "We believe that crafts play an essential role in a community's economic and social well-being. And in addition, to utilizing that work as a source of income, makers are often holding the history of their regions their communities and their families in their work," Jean said.
        "We're really excited for the work that they've been able to achieve, and we're excited to incorporate them into the holiday shopping season coming up."
        "For the first time, some of these women are getting recognition that they never had before and just seeing the appreciation," Cayetano-Jefferson said. "Some of the ladies that come over here are just so excited that people in California are wanting them to weave their baskets and it's unreal."
        But the beautiful baskets are not without their challenges.

        Obstacles have slowed the interest in the craft