August 24, 2000
by Dale Linder-Altman
“From Slavery to Freedom”
“Man finds his dream in slave artifacts”
The Slave Relics Historical Museum & Culture Center will open this fall in Walterboro.
Rev. Danny Drain, who recently moved here from New York, is the Executive Director of the museum. Drain previously worked as news clerk at WB Channel 11 television station in New York City. He has been collecting slavery relics for years.
According to Drain, living in Colleton County is a different experience, but one he likes. “I love it here,” he said. “It’s much slower paced and the people have been very helpful. The people in government have been instrumental in getting the museum up and running. Commerce has been especially helpful.”
It’s not surprising that Drain feels at home in Colleton County. Both of his parents, Jacob and Mary Drain, grew up here before moving to New York in the late 1960’s. His grandparents still live in the Smoaks area.
Drain, a noted collector of slave relics, has several items on loan to the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, New York. The Schomberg is the world’s largest repository of slave relics in the world. For the past two years Drain’s collection has been touring in the New York area. At present, he is involved in moving his collection of thousands of relics to Walterboro.
“This is going to be an institution that preserves the African American culture and experience throughout the country,” Drain said. “We’ll try to cover all the corners of the country-we try to focus nationwide.”
This area is a suitable choice for the Museum as so many African Americans can trace their roots back here. Drain said that the ancestors of the majority of African Americans living in the South today were brought to Charleston by slave ships because of its excellent harbor.
The Museum, which will be the first of its kind in this area, will feature items made and used by slaves, some items from the Underground Railroad, rare documents pertaining to the slave trade, and rare books dealing with the topics of abolition and slavery.
Among Drain’s many prized articles are approximately 15 antique quilts. One of them is a ‘signature’ quilt made in Illinois in 1895. Inscribed on it are the names of 420 soldiers who fought in the Civil War. Twenty-seven of those names have been researched by the Museum.
Included in the rare books owned by the museum are The History of the Rise, Progress, and Accomplishments of the Abolition of the African Slave Trade, written by Thomas Clarkson and published in 1808; and Liberty or Slavery, Prized Essays, which was published in 1857.
Some of the documents that will be on display are newspapers dated as early at the 1700’s, which have ads about the sale of slaves and runaway slaves. Drain also has a collection of plantation records and store ledgers.
Drain plans to expand public awareness of the contributions of African Americans by carrying his exhibitions to the public. “I do traveling exhibitions at schools, colleges and civic organizations. I’ve learned that many people have never seen actual slavery articles that were made and used by African slaves.
He has many articles of furniture that were made by slaves in the mid 1800’s for their owners use and also for their owners to sell. They were made with no nails, but were held together by a slot-notch and wedge technique.
The grounds of the Museum will be set up as a model plantation and will feature a blacksmith shop and a slave cabin that Drain found in New Orleans. It will be dismantled, brought to Walterboro, and reassembled.
The Museum, which is located at 208 Carn Street, will also offer educational programs to the community. Included will be classes in African dance, language workshops and basket weaving; and films and lectures by various experts on different topics. Drain plans to open the Museum in mid October.