From Historic Caretaker’s House to Interpretive Exhibit: Illustrating the Lives of African Americans at Drayton Hall

by Cameron Moon, Preservation Coordinator, the Drayton Hall Preservation Trust

As work begins on the new visitor center, preparations to repurpose the historic caretaker’s house into an interpretive exhibit are underway. While the postbellum period and the 20th century are not periods of primary significance at Drayton Hall, these years were pivotal for the preservation of the property. Phosphate mining became the major industry in Charleston after the Civil War, relying on the labor of freedmen who remained in the area after Emancipation.

Drayton Hall was first leased to a mining company in 1866, and tenant housing was subsequently built on the property to house the miners and their families. These families formed a community during Reconstruction, and many of them remained on the property through the first half of the 20th century, caring for the landscape and the main house while the Drayton family was gone. As we revisit our interpretation of the site with the construction of new facilities, our primary goal is to interpret a complete story of Drayton Hall, striving to illustrate the lives of the enslaved people, women, and African Americans.

Unlike the colonial and antebellum periods where documentation of the enslaved workforce is scarce, evidence of the postbellum African American community is available through census records, oral histories, photographs, leases, maps, and architectural remains. We plan to use the caretaker’s house to interpret the postbellum period and the 20th century at Drayton Hall, allowing us to exhibit this documentary evidence for the first time to interpret the lives of the people who lived at Drayton Hall from the 1860s until the 1940s.

Old Nancy Notes in front of pole fence

Old Nancy Notes, Drayton Family Servant, undated. Courtesy of the South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC.

One of the residents of Drayton Hall during this period was Nancy Notes (referred to as “Nanny” by Richmond Bowens). According to Bowens, she worked as a nurse for the Drayton children, Charles Henry II, Charlotta, and Bessie, in the early 20th century. It is possible that Nancy Notes was enslaved by the Draytons. The name “Nanny” appears on an inventory of slaves from c.1857. The name of Nancy Notes’ husband on the 1880 U.S. Census, Quash, is also listed on this inventory. While further research may verify if Nancy Notes and “Nanny” are the same person, her position as a nurse for the Drayton children suggests she had an existing relationship with the Drayton family prior to living on the property after Emancipation.

Diana Roberts, Drayton Hall servant

Diana Roberts, Drayton Family Servant, undated. Courtesy of the South Carolina Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC.

Another woman we believe lived at Drayton Hall during this time was Diana Roberts. According to Richmond Bowens, she lived in one of the few identifiable houses along MacBeth Road today, referred to as the Roberts/McKeever House. It was a two-room framed house with an end chimney, brick piers and shingle roof. Diana does not show up on any census records from 1870-1940. However, a photograph labeled “Diana Roberts, Drayton Family Servants” exists in a collection of Drayton Hall photographs housed at the South Caroliniana Library. In the photograph, she stands at a wooden gate in front of a framed house, which matches the description Bowens gave of houses along MacBeth Road. The house behind her also matches the architectural remains of the Roberts/McKeever House on MacBeth Road today. The end chimney survives, as do the brick piers and other wooden framing elements. Further investigation will help us learn more about Nancy Notes, Diana Roberts, and the African American community that lived at Drayton Hall after the Civil War through the first half of the twentieth century.

We are excited to share this ongoing research with visitors, as this period of time was pivotal for the preservation of Drayton Hall, and it is a story that has often been left untold, until now.

Camerodrayton_hs_06n Moon is a graduate of the College of Charleston with a degree in Historic Preservation and Community Planning and a minor in Anthropology. Her honors thesis chronicled the adaptive reuse of the Cigar Factory on East Bay Street and its relationship with the surrounding neighborhood. Before joining the DHPT staff in September 2014, she worked for Edgewood Builders, where she learned construction, preservation and restoration techniques at Medway Plantation and houses in the historic district. Cameron is currently working on ongoing Drayton Hall conservation projects as well as converting the museum shop, housed in the former caretaker’s house, into an interpretive museum space.

 

Liberty & Slavery: The Paradox of America’s Founding Fathers

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Drayton Hall is pleased to present the first Charleston-area screening of the award-winning documentary film “Liberty & Slavery: The Paradox of America’s Founding Fathers,” produced and directed by filmmaker A. Troy Thomas of Inertia Films.

America’s Founding Fathers were men yearning for a nation of individual liberty and unprecedented independence. Thomas Jefferson expressed this desire in the Declaration of Independence in 1776: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” But the origins of America were already seeded with a cruel paradox because many of the liberty-loving, southern Founding Fathers, including Jefferson and Washington, were also slave owners. Slavery was commonplace in the 18th century—not just in America, but in the world.

But why did the non-slave-owning Founding Fathers compromise with the slave-owning Founders when it came to ratifying the U.S. Constitution?

How do we make sense of this paradox?

Watch as “Liberty & Slavery” searches for answers through a series of interviews with respected authors, historians, theologians, and many other notables.

Thursday, September 8
The Charleston Museum
360 Meeting Street
5:30 – 8:00 pm

    Free and open to the public. No advance reservations required.

Doors open at 5:30 pm with a reception and introductions by Carter C. Hudgins, President & CEO of the Drayton Hall Preservation Trust, and filmmaker Troy Thomas. A Q&A session will follow the screening.

Watch Trailer

 

For additional information, please contact:
Tara Odom, Special Events Coordinator
(843) 769-2627 or todom@draytonhall.org

Curating the Black Atlantic: Race, Memory, and Museum Making

Jonathan Holloway

Jonathan Holloway

The 2016 Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series – Thursday, March 24th

Speaker: Dean Jonathan Holloway, Ph.D., Yale College

Venue: South Carolina Society Hall, 72 Meeting Street, Charleston, SC

 

Beginning in the 1970s, museum curators began to search for materials and artifacts they could use to interpret the black experience in the Americas. Their efforts flew in the face of previous scholarship that declared that there were almost no artifacts available to understand the black past. Using new technologies, the new generation of curators argued that their predecessors were wrong. Whereas earlier scholars only saw “absence,” the post-civil rights curators concluded that they were surrounded by evidence of a black past. The absence, it turns out, was the evidence.

How can we make sense of this conclusion? What can we learn by studying the history of absence? What does the black past tell us about how the Atlantic world was made and about the role of museums in making that world?

Jonathan Holloway (GRD, 1995) is Dean of Yale College and Edmund S. Morgan Professor of African American Studies, History, and American Studies. He specializes in post-emancipation United States history with a focus on social and intellectual history. He is the author of Confronting the Veil: Abram Harris Jr., E. Franklin Frazier, and Ralph Bunche, 1919–1941 (2002) and Jim Crow Wisdom: Memory and Identity in Black America Since 1940 (2013), both with the University of North Carolina Press. He edited Ralph Bunche’s A Brief and Tentative Analysis of Negro Leadership (NYU Press, 2005) and co-edited Black Scholars on the Line: Race, Social Science, and American Thought in the 20th Century (Notre Dame University Press, 2007). He has written an introduction for a new edition of W.E.B. Du Bois’s Souls of Black Folk, published by Yale University Press in 2015. He has held fellowships from the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute at Harvard University, the Stanford Humanities Center, and the Ford Foundation. He was an Alphonse Fletcher Sr. Fellow in 2011–2012. Currently, he is a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians.

About Drayton HallFounded in 1738, Drayton Hall is the nation’s earliest example of fully executed Palladian architecture and the oldest preserved plantation house in America still open to the public. After seven generations, the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, and numerous hurricanes and earthquakes, the main house remains in nearly original condition. A National Historic Landmark, Drayton Hall is a property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is administered by The Drayton Hall Preservation Trust.

When the National Trust acquired Drayton Hall in 1974, it made the decision to “preserve” or stabilize the site. This action—unprecedented in its day—set Drayton Hall on a course unique among historic sites: it preserved its authentic, centuries-old timeline of history rather than restoring it to one specific period. Because it has never been modernized with electric lighting, plumbing, or central heating or air conditioning, the main house remains unfurnished, allowing the beauty of the architectural details to come through.

Click here for information on all of our 2016 Distinguished Speakers.

Doors open at 5:30pm with a Wine and Cheese Reception.
Presentations start promptly at 6:30pm.
No advance reservations; please arrive early as seating is limited.

The 2016 Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series
is sponsored by The Francis Marion Hotel, Charleston, SC.

Francis Marion Hotel

Mark your Calendars: the 2016 Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series

Website HeaderThe Friends of Drayton Hall are pleased to present the third season of the Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series. Beginning with the opening event of the 2016 season, you’ll experience a range of thought-provoking presentations related to America’s history and culture by some of today’s most respected historians, archaeologists, and curators. Speakers will also highlight the connections of Charleston and Drayton Hall to their research interests, and answer questions from the audience. For additional information on this year’s speakers, please visit the Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series website.

The 2016 Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series is sponsored by The Francis Marion Hotel, Charleston, SCFMlogo

SPRING 2016 SERIES

Thursday, February 18, 2016
Patricia Lowe Smith, Curator of Historic Architectural Resources, Drayton Hall Preservation Trust
The Best Portico: Rehabilitating an Architectural Icon

Thursday, March 24, 2016
Dean Jonathan Holloway, Dean of Yale College and Edmund S. Morgan Professor of African American Studies, History, and American Studies
Curating the Black Atlantic: Race, Memory, and Museum Making

Thursday, April 21, 2016
Henry Noltie, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
John Hope: Botanist of the Scottish Enlightenment

FALL 2016 SERIES

Thursday, September 15, 2016
Sarah Stroud Clarke, Archaeologist & Curator of Collections, Drayton Hall Preservation Trust
What Lies Beneath: The Archaeology of the pre-Drayton Era

Thursday, October 20, 2016
Dr. William M. Kelso, Director of Research & Interpretation, Historic Jamestowne
Jamestown, The Buried Truth

Thursday, November 17, 2016 – SPONSORED BY CHIPSTONE 
Dr. David S. Shields, Carolina Distinguished Professor and the McClintock Professor of Southern Letters, University of South Carolina
Creating the World Orchard                              

 LOCATION

South Carolina Society Hall
72 Meeting Street, Charleston SC 29401

Ample on-street parking and public lot parking
is available within a block of the South Carolina Society Hall

Doors open at 5:30 pm with a Wine and Cheese Reception.
Presentations start promptly at 6:30 pm.
No advance reservations; please arrive early as seating is limited.

For more information, please contact: Tara White Odom, Development Events Coordinator, 843-769-2627 or by e-mail

Building Bridges Symposium Highlights Latest Research and Discoveries from Drayton Hall

header1Join us on January 29 and 30 for Breaking Ground and Building Bridges, a symposium that brings together leading scholars from Charleston’s preservation and history organizations to present new research on the material culture of the Carolina Lowcountry. Over the course of two days, speakers will discuss exciting initiatives and cutting–edge research projects related to archaeology, the decorative arts, social history, and post-Reconstruction Charleston. Critically-acclaimed artist Jonathan Green will give the Keynote Address at the Building Bridges Symposium.

This year, Drayton Hall will be represented in the program by Cameron Moon, Preservation Coordinator, who will present “The Caretaker’s House: Vernacular Architecture and the Postbellum African American Community at Drayton Hall” on Friday at 2:15 pm. Ms. Moon will speak about how her research of the caretaker’s house has led to a better understanding of the African American community living at Drayton Hall from the late 19th to mid-20th century and has helped to develop a more accurate portrayal of the tenant houses and landscape during phosphate mining.

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c. 1915, one of the earlier photographs of the caretaker’s house shows it in its original location next to the main house. This is a rare view, as it is of the back of the house and shows its original footprint before an addition on the back was built in 1923.

The Symposium is a collaboration between Historic Charleston Foundation, Drayton Hall Preservation Trust, The Charleston Museum and Preservation Society of Charleston to facilitate dialogue among many of the Lowcountry Institutions. All proceeds will benefit the sponsoring institutions. Symposium tickets are $125/person for the general public and free for students.

See full schedule and purchase tickets

 

Camerodrayton_hs_06n Moon is a graduate of the College of Charleston with a degree in Historic Preservation and Community Planning and a minor in Anthropology. Her honors thesis chronicled the adaptive reuse of the Cigar Factory on East Bay Street and its relationship with the surrounding neighborhood. Before joining the DHPT staff in September 2014, she worked for Edgewood Builders, where she learned construction, preservation, and restoration techniques at Medway Plantation and houses in the historic district. Cameron is currently working on ongoing Drayton Hall conservation projects as well as converting the museum shop, housed in the former caretaker’s house, into an interpretive museum space.

Drayton Hall’s Collections Objects in New Exhibit

Charles Drayton (1743-1820). Artist unknown. ca. 1760. Watercolor on ivory, supported by burnished bezel case with hanging loop and mounted brooch pin. Drayton Hall Museum Collection, National Trust for Historic Preservation. Gift of Mr. Charles H. Drayton, III. Photograph courtesy of Mr. Russell Buskirk.

Charles Drayton (1743-1820). Artist unknown. ca. 1760. Watercolor on ivory, supported by burnished bezel case with hanging loop and mounted brooch pin. Drayton Hall Museum Collection, National Trust for Historic Preservation. Gift of Mr. Charles H. Drayton, III. Photograph courtesy of Mr. Russell Buskirk.

By Sarah Stroud Clarke, Archaeologist + Curator of Collections

A group of objects from the Drayton Hall Museum and Archaeological Collections are on their way to The Society of The Four Arts in Palm Beach, FL, to be part of the exhibition An Eye for Opulence: Charleston through the Lens of the Rivers Collection at the Esther B. O’Keeffe Gallery, November 21, 2015 through January 10, 2016 (opening weekend November 20-22, 2015). The exhibit features the private collection of John M. Rivers, Jr., as well as objects from the Gibbes Museum of Art, Historic Charleston Foundation, The Charleston Museum, and Drayton Hall.

See images from Opening Night here.

Drayton Hall is pleased to be part of this wonderful group of institutions bringing together key elements of Charleston’s past through surviving material culture. Drayton Hall represents the earliest surviving colonial estate in Charleston, South Carolina, and the objects on loan to the Four Arts illustrate the great diversity in the collections found at Drayton Hall. Included are Chinese-export porcelains original to John Drayton’s (1715-1779) ownership of the house, personal items belonging to Charles Drayton (1743-1820), and objects made by enslaved African Americans.

One of the objects, rarely seen by the public, is the exquisite miniature portrait of Charles Drayton (1743-1820) shown above. Painted c. 1760 when Charles was a young gentleman, possibly around the time he was preparing to further his studies in England.

The archaeological collection at Drayton Hall illustrates the many renditions of Chinese-export porcelains that John Drayton (1715-1779) utilized during his lifetime. This nearly intact octagonal saucer, shown below, may represent porcelain purchased in celebration of one of his first two marriages. John Drayton married four times during the course of his life, his first two wives both succumbed to death as the result of childbirth; Sarah Cattell in 1740 and Charlotte Bull (Charles Drayton’s mother) in 1743 just days after Charles’ birth.

Jingdezhen, China, ca. 1740. Hard-paste porcelain with hand-painted underglaze cobalt blue decoration. Drayton Hall Archaeological Collection. Photograph by Mr. Russell Buskirk.

Jingdezhen, China, ca. 1740. Hard-paste porcelain with hand-painted underglaze cobalt blue decoration. Drayton Hall Archaeological Collection. Photograph by Mr. Russell Buskirk.

Colonoware is a type of low-fired earthenware pottery that was created by enslaved African and Native Americans in colonial North America. Shown below, this Colonoware sherd found at Drayton Hall is decorated with a rare example of incised Latin alphabet characters.

South Carolina, possibly the Charleston area, mid-to late 18th century. Low-fired earthenware with incised initials MHD, possibly for Maria Henrietta Drayton (1783-1862), daughter of Charles Drayton. Drayton Hall Archaeological Collection.

South Carolina, possibly the Charleston area, mid-to late 18th century. Low-fired earthenware with incised initials MHD, possibly for Maria Henrietta Drayton (1783-1862), daughter of Charles Drayton. Drayton Hall Archaeological Collection.

We hope you’ll join us in Palm Beach for this fascinating exhibition of over 100 objects from Charleston’s Golden Era.

Sarah Stroud Clarke headshot 2013

Sarah Stroud Clarke is the Archaeologist + Curator of Collections at Drayton Hall, overseeing the archaeological laboratory and recent excavations of the Drayton Hall property and was the 2007 Drayton Hall Wood Family Fellow. She is concurrently working on her PhD in Anthropology at Syracuse University which focuses on the “pre-Drayton” occupation of the property from 1680-1735.

The Esther B. O’Keeffe Gallery is open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. Gallery admission is $5; no charge for Four Arts members and children 14 and younger. Click here for more on the exhibit.

The Society of the Four Arts was founded in 1936 to offer quality cultural programming to the growing resort community of Palm Beach. Each season, The Four Arts offers a dynamic lineup of cultural programing, including notable speakers, concerts, films, educational programs, and art exhibitions. The campus is home to beautiful sculpture and botanical gardens, a library and children’s library, and a state-of-the art educational facility. The Four Arts is a 501(c)3 nonprofit charity and all programs are open to the public.

Job Announcement: Wexler-Funded Curatorial Fellow

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Circa 1740 Colonoware cooking pot created by enslaved people and used at Drayton Hall. Photo credit: Colonial Williamsburg

Under the supervision of the Drayton Hall Preservation Trust Archaeologist + Curator of Collections, the Wexler-Funded Curatorial Fellow (WFCF) is responsible for generating high-quality digital data on archaeological artifacts, excavation contexts, and site plans, with the use of detailed classification, measurement, digitizing, and coding protocols developed by the Monticello Archaeology Lab and the Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery (DAACS). The WFCF is responsible for cataloging the legacy archaeological collection at Drayton Hall in order to contribute to a greater understanding of the material culture of the past inhabitants of the Drayton Hall property. The fellowship is a funded position with funding expected to last for approximately 24 months.

Duties

  • Mastery of DAACS protocols and data structures for artifacts and context data and their instantiation in the DAACS database.
  • Expertise in the material culture of the early-modern Atlantic world, especially ceramics and a basic understanding of stratigraphy, soils, sediments, archaeological survey and excavation techniques.
  • Knowledge of current scholary literature in historical archaeology.
  • Ability to communicate effectively through writing, informal tours, and professional presentations. Fellow is expected to work with supervisor to present results at professional conferences and to communicate with Deborah and Peter Wexler on the status and progress of the fellowship.
  • Excellent organizational skills with extreme attention to detail and diligent and patient work practices.
  • Be a team player and be able to lead, follow, and/or support colleagues in a tactful, positive way.
  • Other duties as assigned.

Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s Degree in anthropology or related discipline, preferably with a concentration in archaeology.
  • Graduate degree in anthropology.
  • Previous DAACS training by the Monticello/DAACS staff a plus.
  • A minimum of two years’ experience in archaeological research.
  • Must have strong oral and written communication skills.

Position Details

  • Department: Preservation
  • Reports To: Archaeologist + Curator of Collections
  • FLSA Status: Non-Exempt
  • Employment Status: Full Time

Please send a cover letter, resume, and contact information for three references who can support the applicant’s ability to perform the duties described above, to:
Drayton Hall Preservation Trust
Attn: Sarah Stroud Clarke, Archaeologist + Curator of Collections
3380 Ashley River Road, Charleston, SC 29414
Or you may email your application materials to sstroudclarke@draytonhall.org
No phone calls, please.
The Drayton Hall Preservation Trust is an equal opportunity employer.

A New and Different Kind of Historical Preservation: Preserving Tangible Expressions of Public Sympathy for Emanuel AME Church by George W. McDaniel

Photo credit: Andrew Knapp, Post & Courier

Photo credit: Andrew Knapp, Post & Courier

I wanted to share Andrew Knapp’s moving article in the Post & Courier, which was first published on August 8th. It describes the lengths to which people from all over the world are going in order to express their heartfelt words of sympathy for the tragic massacre on June 17th and how the Emanuel AME Church and its members plus many volunteers are responding by preserving thousands of messages of love, support, and prayer.

http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20150808/PC16/150809552

Elizabeth, “Liz,” Alston, historian of Emanuel AME church and a former member of Drayton Hall’s Site Advisory Council, is leading this effort to archive these items, and I and other Charleston museum professionals are pitching in. On Friday and Saturday after the shootings, I visited the church to pay my respects and was struck by the number of tangible expressions of concern and support that people left in front of the church: hand-written notes, teddy bears, banners filled with signatures, hand-made crosses, candles, paintings, photographs, and scores of bouquets of flowers. They told of this moment in time, not only for our community but for our nation. It had not yet rained, and I was concerned that when the summer storms came, as they surely would in June, they would spoil the signed banners and artifacts. I called Liz and asked if they had plans for their preservation. She explained that, as a historian, she was thinking in the same way, but that the church was in the midst of grieving and had lost its leadership and was focused on conducting funerals and caring for any number of things large and small. She too was devastated, but nonetheless, suggested we meet.

After signing a banner in front of Emanuel on Friday after the tragedy and seeing all the other testimonials, I contacted Liz Alston, historian at Emanuel.

After signing a banner in front of Emanuel on Friday after the tragedy and seeing all the other testimonials, I contacted Liz Alston, historian at Emanuel.

Cross with notes and artifacts in front of Emanuel.

Cross with notes and artifacts in front of Emanuel.

Messages from the heart and soul.

Messages from the heart and soul.

I called a range of museum and preservation professionals, including John Hildreth, regional vice president of Eastern Field Services of the National Trust, Faye Jensen, director of the SC Historical Society, Toni Carrier, co-founder of Lowcountry Africana and a former fellow with Drayton Hall, Rebecca Campbell, a Drayton Hall descendant, who grew up near Emanuel, Kitty Robinson from the Historic Charleston Foundation, Carl Borick, director of the Charleston Museum, and others. Each responded positively, and just a week after the tragedy, we met in the ground floor room, where the shootings had taken place a week earlier .

First meeting of memorial committee, Liz Alston,Toni Carrier,Rebecca Campbell,Va Ellison,Faye Jensen,JH, GM (2)

First meeting of the memorial committee. Clockwise from top: Liz Alston, Toni Carrier, Rebecca Campbell, Virginia Ellison, Faye Jensen, John Hildreth, and George McDaniel.

It was discomforting to be in that same space yet also uplifting to see the life of the church continue, as members, young and old, came and went, comforted one another, and got ready for the Bible study that evening, the same study conducted a week earlier with the assassin present. Discretely to one side were chamber music musicians, including Charleston violinist Yuri Becker, who were there to play and to express through music their support for the Bible study that evening. We had our meeting, got the ball rolling for preserving artifacts, and since it had not rained, we brought a number of them into the church, including a large cross, and stored them in a side room.

Unidentified priest and Virginia Ellison remove signed banners for safekeeping on first day.

Foreground, L-R: Unidentified priest and Virginia Ellison remove signed banners for safekeeping on first day.

Liz Alston and me, in front of cross with note cards we saved on the first day

Me and Liz Alston in front of a cross with note cards of support. This was one of the first precious items that we rescued a week after the shootings and just before a thunderstorm.

While we were retrieving artifacts, a press conference was held directly in front of the church. About a half dozen pastors were gathered, and I was glad to see among them The Rev. Callie Walpole, an Episcopal priest in Charleston whom I know and who is the niece of friends of mine. The principal speaker was The Rev. Nelson Rivers, pastor of Charity Missionary Baptist Church and vice president of the National Action Network. Speaking forthrightly into television cameras, he explained in no uncertain terms that this was the time for “respect.” Protest has its time, but not at this time. These families have experienced loss beyond our understanding and will be respected during their times of grieving, as will their church and community members. With force, he declared, “Malcolm X was about respect. Martin Luther King was about respect. The civil rights movement is about respect. And if you don’t understand respect, then you don’t belong here at this time.” It was a challenge and an assurance, both for that moment and for our future.

Later that night a thunderstorm struck, so our retrieval of memorials had been just in time. Our group met again the next week, assessed progress, and retrieved more artifacts. Virginia Ellison and Celeste Wiley, archivists from SC Historical Society, and Karen Emmons, archivist with Historic Charleston Foundation, proved to be key players and offered the assistance of the Charleston Archives, Libraries and Museums association (CALM). Together, their association devised a well-organized process by which artifacts would be systematically photographed in situ and then retrieved from outside for safekeeping. Liz also contacted Mayor Joe Riley, and knowing Liz as he does, he quickly responded by offering both staff support (Danny Burbage and Megan Moughan) as well as temporary storage space in the St. Julian Divine Community Center not far from Emanuel. It was agreed that the articles would be carefully stored there until a more permanent home could be found. Thanks to CALM and the church, volunteers have since been retrieving artifacts on a regular basis and taking photographs before they were removed — papers, notes, teddy bears, canvas frames with inscriptions, crosses, even small rocks with words like “love” and “hope” painted on them and arranged in a circle. In fact, what we won’t remove are the fire hydrant and two or three crepe myrtles in front of the church now covered with hand-written messages and signatures.

At a later meeting, we met with The Rev. Norman Goff, Presiding Elder and interim minister for Emanuel AME, whom many of you saw and heard during the televised funeral services. A thoughtful man with a lot on his shoulders and his heart, he expressed his prayerful support and appreciation for our preservation effort. During our meeting, who came by? Gov. Chris Christie, candidate for President. He offered his sympathies and his appreciation for the preservation work we’re doing. Joining us too were historian Bernard Powers and Mary Battle Pinckney from the Avery Research Center from the College of Charleston.

In subsequent blogs, I’ll report more, but suffice it to say that in the near future, we will be developing a longer term plan, the development of which John Hildreth has much experience and expertise to provide, and for which, fortunately, he has offered to help. We intend to learn from other sites, like Ground Zero, the Boston Marathon, the Vietnam Memorial, and 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. As an example of a future blog, just this week, Edward Crawford, vice chairman of our board, visited Emanuel with me, and Liz Alston showed us around. Edward, a skilled photographer, took pictures, which we’ll feature here later, and was deeply touched by the power of place and of people.

I’ve been deeply grateful to the work with Liz Alston, the Rev. Goff, members of Emanuel, and staff from other museums and preservation organizations in Charleston. Even national support has been provided by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture thanks to Lonnie Bunch, inaugural director and former Drayton Hall Site Advisory Council member, and Dr. Rex M. Ellis, Associate Director for Curatorial Affairs and a friend of mine. The organization CALM is especially to be thanked for its remarkable dedication to preserving the public response of sympathy, hope, and support to this landmark moment in the history of Charleston and our nation.

GWM signature0712
George W. McDaniel recently retired from his position as President and Executive Director of Drayton Hall. He is currently on sabbatical, during which time he has volunteered his services on behalf of Emanuel AME Church. He returns to Drayton Hall on October 1st to work with the Board of Trustees on several projects through June 2016.

All photos are courtesy of George W. McDaniel unless otherwise noted.

The End of an Era at Drayton Hall

Dr. George W. McDaniel

Dr. George W. McDaniel

George McDaniel, the driving force behind the Drayton Hall Preservation Trust for more than 25 years, has announced he’ll be stepping down at the end of the month. It’s bittersweet news for Drayton Hall staff and supporters, all of whom will miss George’s leadership but pleased he’ll have the opportunity to spend more time with family, research and writing. Here’s more from the official announcement:

Drayton Hall Preservation Trust (DHPT), a privately funded nonprofit organization responsible for the operation and administration of Drayton Hall, A National Trust Historic Site, today announced that President and Executive Director George W. McDaniel, Ph.D. would be stepping down on June 30.

“Drayton Hall has been my passion and purpose for more than 25 years,” said McDaniel, “and I can’t imagine a better or more fulfilling vocation. But the time has come to turn over leadership responsibilities so I can focus on family, research, writing and other projects. I thank the Drayton family, whose vision made all of this possible, and the Drayton Hall Preservation Trust board of trustees, our outstanding staff and the thousands of Friends and visitors who have supported us during my tenure.”

Under McDaniel’s leadership, Drayton Hall earned international acclaim for its preservation policies and projects and for expanding the research and interpretation of the site to tell a more complete story. Such programs have won awards at the local, state, and national levels.

“With George at the helm, Drayton Hall became a nationally recognized leader in historic preservation,” said DHPT board chair Steve Gates. “He expanded its educational programming, grew its staff and resources and engineered its co-stewardship model with the National Trust. His contributions over the past 26 years have been vital to Drayton Hall and its important mission.”

McDaniel spearheaded conservation of the Ashley River region as well as outreach to both Drayton and African American family descendants, efforts that now serve as models for other historic sites across the nation. He enhanced both the quantity and stewardship of archival, archaeological and museum collections and was instrumental in securing a firm financial future for DHPT by producing either a balanced budget or a surplus every year during his tenure.

“For more than a quarter century, George has been the face of Drayton Hall, and he has represented the very best in historic site leadership,” said Stephanie K. Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “He has strengthened Drayton Hall’s connections to the community, created a transformative experience for visitors, and led the exemplary preservation of the site and the surrounding landscape of the Ashley River corridor. George is widely recognized for his work in interpreting African American history at Drayton Hall. His innovative approaches have become models for engagement and interpretation that have influenced the way this important work is done across the National Trust’s portfolio of sites and many other properties around the country.  George’s legacy and impact will be felt for years to come.”

Joseph P. Riley, Jr., Mayor of the City of Charleston, added: “George McDaniel has given extraordinary and invaluable service to Drayton Hall, to the City of Charleston, and to the historic preservation movement. He has served as a local and national spokesperson for historic preservation, history education, and historic sites, and leaves a permanent and positive mark on our region and on the preservation of our historic and architectural treasures nationwide.”

In July, McDaniel will transition to President Emeritus, a consultative position that will advise DHPT board and staff. McDaniel will also take a well-deserved (and long deferred) sabbatical commencing July 1 through September 30. Vice President and Deputy Director Carter C. Hudgins, Ph.D. will serve as interim executive director until a permanent selection is made.  A search committee, led by Gates, has already begun its research and evaluation process to find new leadership.

“I think that George has done an absolutely wonderful job as executive director since he’s been at Drayton Hall,” said Charles Henry “Charlie” Drayton, III, 7th-generation descendant of the Drayton family. “I hope that he enjoys his well-deserved sabbatical. He has built remarkable bridges of friendship, for my family continues to feel so much a part of Drayton Hall.” Catherine Braxton, a descendant of the African American Bowens family, and a member of the DHPT board, agreed and said, “George is a bridge builder. He sees our common humanity.”

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Towards Truth and Reconciliation at Drayton Hall

By Dr. Dale Rosengarten, Founding Director of the Jewish Heritage Collection at the College of Charleston Library

Students listening to Drayton Hall's preservation department staff introduce them to the site.

Students listening to Drayton Hall’s preservation department staff introduce them to the site. Photograph courtesy of Dr. Dale Rosengarten.

On a cold afternoon at the end of February, I accompanied 20 first-year students at the College of Charleston on a field trip to Drayton Hall. The class I am teaching, “Charleston as a Classroom,” features a field trip every Thursday, with an extra hour added to the schedule so we have plenty of time. As we boarded the bus for Drayton Hall, I was happy to see we had 100% attendance, despite the frigid temperatures and the fact that we were just one day away from spring break.

We were greeted at the edge of the parking lot by Cameron Moon, a recent College of Charleston grad who works for Drayton Hall as the Preservation Coordinator. She was soon joined by Carter C. Hudgins, Deputy Director, and Rosemary Giesy, the interpreter who would lead our tour. Cameron and Carter talked about the history of the property and their professional involvement. We headed across the lawn and Rosemary began to tell us about the history of Drayton Hall and the people who lived there.

Drayton Hall Historic House Interpreter Rosemary Giesy, who was described at the

Drayton Hall Historic House Interpreter Rosemary Giesy, who was described as the “cutest tour guide ever” by student Lawson Thompson. Photograph courtesy of Lawson Thompson.

The house and grounds were as spectacular as ever, but what made the place come to life was Rosemary’s animation and deep knowledge of the subject. As the mother of a C of C alum her appreciation of her young audience was palpable. We explored the house from top to bottom, finishing up on the ground floor (as the temperature continued to drop!) with a slide show about Drayton Hall’s African American history.

“The scenery was beautiful but the house was even more beautiful, if not for the view, for its elaborateness. The fine detail that went into the wood-carving and crafting of the estate was amazing. There was such precision and small detail to observe. I found it amazing that the original paint was still there, if not a little worn. I loved hearing the story of what each room was used for whether it be a bedroom or a room to entertain guests, a dining room, another living room, or even a “VIP” sort of room used for entertaining the finest of visitors. I loved hearing about the last Drayton to live in the house and about her many, many dog paintings in the front room.

Learning about the slaves who worked there and their relationship to the Draytons was interesting. The basement was dark and colder than the rest of the house and if that wasn’t sad enough, the site of their unmarked graves with the beautiful arch and peaceful scenery did it for me. Our guide was so warm, welcoming and knowledgeable about everything there was to know about the plantation. She was so memorable with her big red coat and excited talk.”
—Haley Olds, student

(For additional student responses, visit the class’s blog.)

Shortly after our visit, Dr. George W. McDaniel, president and executive director of Drayton Hall, made an offer I couldn’t refuse: to bring a group of descendants of Drayton Hall—both heirs of the owners and descendants of the enslaved—to the college for a panel presentation. We scheduled the program for March 18 and invited not only my students, but also Grant Gilmore’s historic preservation majors, Simon Lewis’s English class, and Ruth Ellen Gruber, the Jewish Studies Program’s Distinguished Visiting Scholar this term.

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Shown above and below: sixty-plus people packed into Room 227 in Addlestone Library, and McDaniel started the session by introducing our guests: Catherine Brown Braxton, Rebecca Campbell, and Annie Meyers—all relations of Richmond Bowens, whose ancestors were brought by the Draytons from Barbados in the 1670s —and Shelby Nelson, grandson of the last Drayton to own Drayton Hall.

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George McDaniel introduces the descendants.

Dr. George W. McDaniel introduces the descendants.

First we watched a short and powerful video, after which the four panelists spoke about their connections to Drayton Hall and the way that race relations have changed in their lifetimes. Annie Meyers said her cousin Richmond Bowens helped her overcome the negative feeling she had toward Drayton Hall, where her ancestors were enslaved. Richmond’s fondness for the place and close friendship with Charles Drayton gave her a different sense, and she began to feel comfortable and positive.

Rebecca Campbell. left foreground.
Rebecca Campbell, left foreground.

“I see a change in generations,” said Rebecca Campbell. “Now we hang out together, go to conferences together—it was not always so. We’ve learned to love and forgive. We are now seeing the light. To make America grow we got to work together.”

Shelby Nelson, left center in green shirt.
Shelby Nelson, left center in green shirt.

Shelby Nelson described his feeling of “coming home” when he reconnected with Drayton Hall. He called the house “a real treasure” and said that in 1974, when his grandfather Charles Drayton and great-uncle Frank Drayton decided to sell the property to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, “it was the best thing we ever did.”

Catherine Braxton turned the discussion in a historical direction. She and her sister Rebecca own the Borough Houses, historic properties at the foot of Calhoun Street in Charleston that are remnants of a largely African American neighborhood. Catherine declared: “Drayton Hall is my roots.” After emancipation, the freed people stayed and worked to earn something to live on. “My family left a legacy there. My grandfather was born there as a free man.”

Catherine Braxton, far right.

Catherine Braxton, far right.

“Coming to the table,” Catherine said, is what meetings of descendants of slave owners and of the enslaved are called, and they are happening in many places. “We’ve been wounded and need to heal.” She welcomes opportunities to confront the demons of slavery. In 1978 she visited Gorée Island, off the coast of Dakar, Senegal, where captives were once bought and sold. “I could smell, feel the pain.”

Annie Myers, second from left.

Annie Meyers, second from left.

While Annie did not go to Africa, she found deep roots at Drayton Hall, where her grandmother worked, sewing and cooking and sweeping the yard. With the help of genealogist Toni Carrier, she has made progress tracing her lineage. She is now “doing my DNA,” to get further clues about where her people came from. With some prompting from George, Annie also described how she got involved in the sit-in at Kress’s on King and Wentworth Street in 1960. She joined the picket line demanding the right to sit at the lunch counter. “Something needed to be done,” she said, “and we did it.” For more on the sit-in, check out this article by the Post and Courier: “A Lunch Unserved: How the 1960 Kress sit-in changed Charleston.”

The Drayton descendants made a profound impact on my students, adding a layer of understanding to what they learned on the field trip. I asked them to write down their reactions to the panel and here’s what they had to say:

“It was the most beautiful act of forgiveness I have ever seen. Never before had I witnessed history resolved in such an elegant and hopeful manor. There was so much love between them all that I felt as if we too were being welcomed into the family.” —Emma Lieberman

I found the entire presentation quite moving. I got chills [watching the video] as one of the descendants of the Bowens family started singing in the graveyard of her ancestors. The connection between the Draytons and the Bowens today is heartwarming and is a perfect example of the impacts of history, time, and understanding. They say they are like a family, but it is clear the relationship and respect for one another goes much deeper.” —Kristen Kita

“It was really special to me to have descendants of the former slaves that worked at Drayton Hall and Shelby Nelson, a descendant of the Draytons, come talk to everyone. I found it fascinating to see them sit together at a table sharing what one house means to them. It warmed my heart to see how close the families have somewhat become considering their history so long ago. I am even more thankful for the fact that Drayton Hall is open to the public and we are able to appreciate and admire such a beautiful home that holds many memories along with untold stories.” —Lawson Thompson

“The video and presentation explaining the history of the Drayton Plantation brought the site to life through the stories and experiences of those closely connected to the families who lived there, and most especially, those who worked as slaves. I was delighted to see that the descendants of those who lived on Drayton are still very involved with the plantation and keep close contact with one another.” 
—Mattie Rogers

“The discussion and video about Drayton Hall were fantastic and inspiring. It was great being able to ask the panelists my questions and they did a very good job providing detailed answers. The way they are able to share their personal feelings and stories with us is amazing.” —Owens Morgan

“The presentation was a great experience for many reasons including actually meeting descendants of Drayton Hall. It was also enjoyable and interesting to hear them out on their own perspective of their historic lineage. Their perspectives were invaluable and appreciated. It was awesome to see the complete reconciliation of the Draytons on behalf of the descendants of their slaves because it really highlights the long way we’ve come in race relations.” —Mikey Bishof

“First of all, I want to thank each and every member of the panel for coming and speaking to us. I feel that the best way for us to learn is by hearing the stories first hand, and I think the way it was structured allowed us to hear from all sides. . . . We are most likely the last generation to be able to hear these stories from a first or second hand account, and so in order to keep these viewpoints alive we need to listen and in turn share their stories.” —Paige Claire Mesher

Drayton Hall's upper great hall. Photograph by P.C. Mescher.

Drayton Hall’s upper great hall. Photograph courtesy of Paige Claire Mescher.

“It was a great experience getting to hear stories from people who are directly related to Drayton Hall. They had very interesting things to say and they made Drayton Hall easier to understand. It was a great opportunity that not many people get to experience. I thought it was very nice and thoughtful of the presenters to take time out of their day to come talk to us.” —Caroline Whitaker

“The Drayton Hall descendants who came to speak to us were very interesting. I thought that it was very cool and would have loved to stay longer.” —Allie Garland

While the take-away message was one of reconciliation, the Q&A session broached a number of thorny issues facing the field of public history. Can plantation site interpretation do justice to the lives of the slaves as well as the masters? How can reluctant descendants be persuaded to “come to the table?” How can the field of historic preservation and museum studies attract more African American practitioners? What can be learned from examples of “Dark Tourism” elsewhere? I asked my colleague Ruth Gruber, as a specialist in Jewish heritage tourism in Eastern Europe, to ponder this question.

Photos courtesy of Dr. Dale Rosengarten unless otherwise noted.