When I first started my training, of all the history here on the Drayton Hall property (and there’s A LOT), I was drawn to the rich history of the Africans and African-Africans here.I grew up in California where school children are well-versed in Native American history and their stories and struggles set against the Spanish Conquistadors. So when I came to Drayton Hall about a year ago, and learned that I’d have to do quite a bit of research into the history of the Lowcountry – well, this put me about 3,000 miles outside of my high school history comfort zone. But, loving history as I do, I took on the challenge with great eagerness.
I really immersed myself in all of Drayton Hall’s resources available to guides-in-training and in being given pretty much a free hand to take our research in whatever direction we would like in preparing our house tours, I kept being drawn to the stories of the Africans that lived and labored here in the Lowcountry.
Now as a fully certified guide, I take great pride in weaving the stories of the enslaved in the house tours I lead. I like to say, it’s as much their house as it is the Drayton’s – since after all, they built the place. And the story of our African countrymen has a strong pull for me personally because growing up I never really spoke to my stepmom about her roots and ancestry. She spoke very little about being raised in Mississippi, and nothing about being a descendent of slaves. I long to be able to go back in the past and, knowing more about history than I knew then, be able to ask her all the questions I now have.
Like everyone here at Drayton Hall, I am constantly researching more of the rich and often tortured history of this region. It makes me so glad to encounter so many guests who want to know more about the African and African-American part of this country’s history. And what I like to impart to guests is that the history of African-Americans is every American’s history. I can appreciate that there is a month of the year that we take to commemorate their struggle and achievements, but here at Drayton Hall I like to commemorate those struggles and celebrate those achievements with every tour I lead.
Eric Snyder is a Guide and weekend manager at Drayton Hall.