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Saturday, October 9th, marked a beautiful and memorable day in Drayton Hall’s recent history. For those of you who were there, you know what I’m talking about, and for those of you who were not, I think you would have loved it and wish you could have been there. It was indeed a beautiful fall day – clear and crisp, with blue skies. But it was more than the weather that made the day special – it was the spirit of the people who were gathered together to give recognition and honor to those who have come before, and to pledge ourselves towards striving for a better future.
As described in the articles and news clips featured below, the occasion itself was the dedication of the new memorial at Drayton Hall’s African-American cemetery. Circa 1790, it is one of the oldest African-American cemeteries in the nation still in use.
The talents of many came together to forge this event into one of unique beauty. They include the organizers, craftsmen, speakers, singers, spiritual leaders, volunteers, family members, and visitors. Descendants of families, white and black, came forward to recognize the contributions of the scores of African Americans—known and unknown, enslaved and free—who contributed to making Drayton Hall into the special place that it was historically and that it remains today.
In his presentation, Lonnie Bunch, director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, captured the essence of the event, when he explained:
But in some ways, we learn even more by what a country chooses to forget. This desire to omit—disappointments, moments of evil and great missteps—is quite instructive. Often it is the essence of African American culture that is forgotten or neglected. It is often the story of the enslaved and their descendants that is shrouded by the mists of forgetfulness. But today, this dedication allows us to pierce this mist with the sunshine of remembering. Within this cemetery, we know the names of some, but many more names are known only to God. But today, we honor them all—we honor their sacrifice, their suffering and their impact. But we also honor their joy, their resiliency and their lives. It is clear that we are all made better by their lives—which is the foundation on which we stand.
As we processed into the cemetery for the final dedication, descendants Esther Chandler and Rudy Braxton read the names of hundreds of African Americans who had laid that “foundation.” As a benediction, descendants Lorraine White and Corey Furtick sang “Take my hand, Precious Lord, lead me on.”
Lonnie’s right. It is by honoring the ancestors in such ways that we “are all made better,” and we at Drayton Hall feel privileged to be part of this important effort towards charting a better future.
Below are links to Drayton Hall’s African-American Memorial Dedication event on our website and other related items as well.
A related blog by one of Drayton Hall’s senior interpreters, John Saunders, entitled “Seeing the Invisible,” http://draytonhall.wordpress.com/2011/02/17/seeing-the-invisible/
A related blog by Dwight Young, “Leave ‘Em Rest” – Drayton Hall Honors Its African-American Cemetery, http://www.preservationnation.org/magazine/story-of-the-week/2011/leave-em-rest.html, Dwight Young is the author of “Road Trips Through History” and “The Back Page” column of Preservation.
Drayton Hall images of the event on flickr!http://www.flickr.com/photos/30768648@N05/
Special thanks to the College of Charleston’s Center for the Documentaryhttp://doccenter.cofc.edu/about-the-department/index.php and photographers Daniel Stewart and JT Chandler http://jazzyphotos.zenfolio.com/p412695853
Find us in the news!
See Channel 2, The Post and Courier, Live 5 News, and West of below.