This exhibit includes documents relating to enslaved individuals and the plantation economy, as well as the community of freed African Americans that lived at Drayton Hall from 1865 to 1960. The Drayton family owned several plantations in the Lowcountry throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Many of the documents in this exhibit may have pertained to those other plantations, though some relate to Drayton Hall specifically. The documents in this exhibit come from numerous sources, including the Drayton Papers Collection, public records like maps and census records, the South Carolina Historical Society, and the South Caroliniana Library at the University of South Carolina. This collection of documents is designed to be a resource for those looking to learn more about slavery and the postbellum African American community at Drayton Hall, and those looking for information about their ancestors.
It is important to note that the primary source documents in this exhibit were created by White people, whether by the hand of plantation owners like Charles Drayton or government entities in the 18th and 19th centuries; no records in this collection were written by enslaved individuals. It was illegal in South Carolina for enslaved people to learn to read and write, preventing them from leaving written records of their own. However, we can rely on material culture to learn about their lives. In this exhibit, the agricultural and construction tools were likely made by enslaved blacksmiths. And all of the tools were used by enslaved workers to cultivate crops and construct buildings on the Drayton Hall property. To see more material culture made and used by enslaved people, visit the Colonoware Exhibit in the Drayton Hall Collection.