A few weeks back, Drayton Hall welcomed a group of distinguished guests onto our grounds and into the main house for a very exciting project- filming a segment for the PBS documentary “The African Americans: Many River to Cross.” The group included a PBS film crew and the host of the series, scholar and historian Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, Jr. (Read more on Mr. Gates impressive background here: http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~amciv/faculty/gates.shtml )
Mr. Gates brought to the site a good friend of Drayton Hall’s, Dr. Bernard Powers of the College of Charleston, to interview for the series. (Learn more about Dr. Powers here: http://history.cofc.edu/about/faculty-and-staff/powers-bernard.php) The documentary is focusing on the history of rice cultivation in the Lowcountry, which was a defining period for Drayton Hall and this part of the South.
We were also so excited that sisters Catherine Braxton and Rebecca Campbell, descendants of the enslaved at Drayton Hall and members of the steering committee for our African-American cemetery, welcomed Mr. Gates to the site. They presented him with a special gift that commemorated his visit to Charleston and to Drayton Hall- a DVD with excerpted passages from the oral histories of descendants that were recently filmed here, as well as a fanner basket, Carolina rice, and our famous rice spoon. Mr. Gates was delighted and enjoyed speaking with Catherine and Rebecca who are gifted oral historians of African-American history at Drayton Hall. Click here to see a video of their behind-the- scenes meeting.
Dr. McDaniel, our Executive Director, was thrilled that our site was chosen for such an important documentary. “It was an honor to have historian Skip Gates at Drayton Hall for the program he’s producing on African American history. Dr. Gates has done so much to promote history in general, and specifically, to engage the public in family history and African American history through his work in public television. The selection of Drayton Hall as a site for his interview with Dr. Bernard Powers illustrates the qualities of this historic site, and it was great to have Dr. Powers, who has been involved with so many of our projects. ”
Although visits like this require lots of hard work by our talented staff, they are always worth it, as they merge seamlessly with our mission to educate the public and support historic preservation. The series will premiere on PBS in the fall of 2013.