Newsletter of the African-American
Applied Archaeology and History
615 Fairglen Lane, Annapolis, MD 21401
Number 24, Spring 1999John P. McCarthy,Editor
Levi Jordan Plantation Internet Project
Carol McDavidUniversity of Cambridge, Department of Archaeology & Levi
Jordan Plantation Historical Society (email@example.com)
The Levi Jordan Plantation web site focuses
on an archaeological and historical site in Brazoria, Texas. As
many readers of this newsletter are aware, research at the site
has been underway for some 14 years under the direction of Ken
Brown at the University of Houston. The plantation was built in
1848 by Levi Jordan, his family, and the people who were enslaved
by them (and, later, who worked for them as tenant farmers and
This web site is the result of a collaboration
between historical archaeologists, African American descendants
and European American descendants (and other community members)
to create an ongoing conversation to discuss the diverse archaeologies
and histories of this plantation. A major focus of the site is
to discuss how people seem to have used African beliefs and ways
of using material culture to deal with the oppression of slavery
and its aftermath, tenancy. However, there is also a great deal
of information about the lives of Jordan and his family, as well
as information about how descendants of the plantation's residents
are working together now to tell the histories of their ancestors.
While Ken Brown and his students provided most of the archaeological
and historical content for the web site, many other people have
contributed content as well: anthropologists, other archaeologists,
historians and descendant community members.
In addition to providing a forum to discuss
the archaeologies and histories of the Jordan Plantation, the
web site is also designed to help archaeologists and community
members learn more about how people communicate about archaeology
and history on the Internet. We hope that readers of this newsletter
will participate in this research in various ways by answering
the online questionnaires, by posting to discussion groups and
using feedback forms, as well as by direct communication with
Top of Page
Evidence for the Accumulation of Both Money
and Material Goods
Nancy Sorrells and Susanne Simmons Museum
of American Frontier Culture, Staunton, VA
The search for evidence of the involvement
of enslaved African Americans in the local economy of Piedmont
Virginia led Monticello archaeologist Barbara Heath on a journey
into the business papers and ledgers of local white tradesmen,
businessmen, and farmers. Our research, sponsored by the Museum
of American Frontier Culture in Staunton, Virginia, has led us
to the same types of sources in the Shenandoah Valley, a region
just west of Heath's study. Although these sources have been examined
by historians for years, this particular search looked for answers
to different questions.
A careful analysis of these business papers
with an eye toward clues about African-American history proved
that the information has been there all along, buried among the
other entries and descriptions. As one sifts through these clues
of African-American history in the Shenandoah Valley, it becomes
clear that there were many methods used by hardworking and innovative
enslaved African Americans to define their own personality with
the material culture around them. The transcribed will of Dangerfield
Hunter, a slave of the Pauly family in Augusta County, is one
example. In his will, Hunter directed that after his death his
debts at a local store be settled and that the debts owed him
be collected. He also dispersed personal items such as pots, pans,
a table, a chair and chickens. His will indicates that slaves
not only had their own possessions, but sometimes had enough money
to loan and to act as collateral for credit extended by local
businessmen.1 Other sources soon led us to realize that, rather
than being an anomaly, Hunter represented a norm. Many slaves
accumulated money and material possessions. Although rarely enough
to purchase their freedom, accumulated cash allowed the purchase
of material goods that enriched their lives and defined their
Beyond the physical and spiritual necessities,
the rigidity of slavery was flexible enough to allow small gains
to be made by hard-working slaves and cooperative masters. Money
was often accumulated through overwork, which is defined as labor
completed after normal chores were finished or on off days. (For
a thorough case study of overwork and slave financial and store
accounts at an ironworks in Rockbridge County, see Charles Dew's
excellent book, Bond of Iron). Sale of garden produce or craft
items made during off-hours was another way to acquire a few extra
dollars. Local accounts describe Sunday streets as being filled
with slaves selling garden produce, while other sources tell of
slaves hustling luggage off coaches, boats, and trains in order
to earn some tip money.
Henry Boswell Jones, a farmer in Rockbridge
County, worked small rewards into the slave system, noting, "It
is a good custom to give the hands presents occasionally--say
at Christmas and harvest time--or to allow them to cultivate an
acre or two of corn, which the master can buy, or give permission
to sell elsewhere." The rewards were part of a much larger
system designed to maintain orderliness and discipline among the
work force he described in the Valley. He included further detail
of this system, adding that, "Servants well treated rarely
ever run off; but there are bad servants, as well as bad children,
and when they need correction it ought always to be promptly attended
to."2 Other slave owners in the region subscribed to Jones's
recommendations. Joseph Smith, a wealthy farmer in Augusta County,
paid "Negro presents" of money to eighteen of his slaves
either as Christmas or harvest time gifts. Twelve of his eighteen
slaves received one dollar, two received fifty cents, and four,
twenty-five cents. Even three of the slaves who were hired out
Francis McFarland, a Presbyterian minister
and farmer in Augusta County, used cash incentives. He paid the
slave Charles twelve-and-a-half cents for a basket he made; he
tipped a servant working on the stagecoach with a quarter, another
fifty cents; he paid his hired slave Rhoda twenty-five cents for
an extra day's work; he bought a coat for Jordan in exchange for
his chopping wood at Christmas; and he gave Bias $2.25 for mending
Slaves not only had their own possessions,
probably accumulated through this overwork, reward, and incentive
systems, but sometimes had money enough to loan and could be granted
credit extended by white businessmen.5 That Dangerfield Hunter
directed his debts at a local store be settled and that debts
owed him be collected after his death indicates these facts. Owners
may have seen these incentives as a means of maintaining morale,
but the slaves used the bonuses to buy personal goods and to make
some financial decisions of their own. Slaves appear, infrequently
but with some regularity as customers among the ledgers of area
businessmen. In each case, the slave clearly controlled his or
her own money and labor and used both to accumulate possessions.
During the 1860s, the slave Henry Johnson
performed various tasks for William B. Alexander, a cabinetmaker
and wagoner in eastern Augusta County. Using a combination of
that labor and cash, Johnson acquired a bedstead for five dollars,
and a drop-leaf table for four dollars, hired a buggy for fifty
cents, bought a picture frame for thirty-eight cents, and paid
twelve cents to have glass cut.6
Hard work and initiative only rarely freed
enslaved African Americans of the Shenandoah Valley from the pale
of slavery. However, historical documents indicate that the money
these African Americans managed to acquire for themselves allowed
them to make their lives a little more bearable through the acquisition
of material goods.
1. Pauly Papers, Virginia Historical Society,
Richmond, Virginia, Dangerfield Hunter's Will, June 18, 1856,
2. Henry Boswell Jones, Report.
3. Folly Farm Papers.
4. McFarland diaries.
5. Pauly Family Papers, Dangerfield Hunter's will.
6. William B. Alexander Papers, 1850-1888. Account book, VSLA Business
Records 29658 a, b, Virginia State Library and Archives, Richmond.
Top of Page
Progression! - Advances in African American
Note from column editor
When I asked Terry Epperson to write the
inaugural contribution for the new "Progression" column,
I did so for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted to position
this forum as a source of thought provoking and, occasionally,
even controversial ideas about ways that historical archaeologists
might approach African Diaspora archaeology more productively.
Since I was familiar with Terry's ideas about the potential usefulness
of Critical Race Theory for our discipline, I was confident that
his contribution would provide the critical perspective that I
Second, I hoped that you, our readers, might
be moved respond to Terry's ideas with the understanding
that these responses may be included in future issues. This forum
is designed to be open, informal, provocative and, if possible,
dialogic. I think that Terry raises some important points about
racism and "race obliviousness" points that all
of us who work in this field (or, arguably, any field and any
discipline) would do well to consider. You may agree, or not
either way, we'd like to hear from you.
I hope you will also let me know of any
suggestions you might have for contributors to this column; at
this point we plan to do this column biannually, so the next 'deadline'
for contributions will be November, 1999. Please email me at (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any ideas
Beyond Biological Reductionism, Ethnicity,
and Vulgar Anti-Essentialism: Critical Perspectives on Race and
the Practice of African-American Archaeology
Terrence W. Epperson (email@example.com)
I am accepting Carol McDavid's invitation
to write the inaugural "Progression" column for African-American
Archaeology with a fair measure of trepidation for two reasons.
First, although I believe I can recognize and appreciate a genuinely
community-based African-American archaeology program when I see
one (Epperson 1999), I am not currently involved in any such projects.
This theory/praxis disjuncture raises the specter that any insights
I might offer will be interpreted as either sanctimonious sermonizing
or ad hominem attacks. That is certainly not my intention. The
second source of trepidation is the current nature of A-A A .
As I peruse the list of editorial staff and recent contributors,
I am troubled by the extent to which this publication has become
a conversation between Euro Americans about African-American Archaeology.
I have no monumental new discoveries to report, and I am quite
reluctant to contribute to this conversation unless I can help
challenge and redefine the existing bounds of discourse.
Drawing upon the insights of the emerging
field of Critical Race Theory (Crenshaw, et al. 1995), I would
like to discuss an absolutely fundamental dilemma in the theory
and practice of African Diaspora archaeology. On one hand, the
bio-genetic conception of race is a demonstrable fiction, a social
construction wrought under conditions of domination and resistance.
On the other hand, race was, and continues to be, quite real in
its social effects, both as a means of domination and as a locus
of identity and resistance. Race obliviousness and naive assertions
of color blindness, coupled with the continuing failure to challenge
the apparent "naturalness" of whiteness, merely serve
to perpetuate racism and demean the legitimate cultural and political
concerns of minority descendant communities. This is the same
dilemma addressed by Anthony Appiah and Amy Gutman (1996) in their
recent book Color Conscious: The Political Morality of Race. I
submit that we need an archaeology that explicitly foregrounds
the issue of race (Orser 1998, 1999; Perry 1997, 1998), challenges
racism (McGhee 1998a, 1998b), acknowledges and respects the concerns
of descendant minority communities (Blakey 1998a, 1998b), and
addresses Maria Franklin's (1997) question "Why are there
so few Black American archaeologists?".
I am in total agreement with Charles Orser's
(1999:662) statement that "The failure of American historical
archaeologists to address race and racism in any substantive way
has served to maintain the field's tacit political conservatism"
At least three related strategies have been consciously or unconsciously
employed by practitioners of African-American archaeology to finesse
the issue of race. The first strategy can be characterized as
"biological reductionism," the tendency to view race
as a static bio-genetic category, an a priori thing that explains
human variation or patterning in the archaeological record (Armelagos
and Goodman 1998). For example, I have previously examined how
an essentialist, bio-genetic conception of "race" was
deployed by the Metropolitan Forensic Anthropology Team (MFAT)
during the earliest stages of analysis at the African Burial Ground
excavations in New York City (Epperson 1996). Since race was seen
as a merely bio-genetic category-separated from history, culture,
and political struggle-the descendant community had no standing
to challenge the research. In fact, MFAT asserted that they were
best qualified to perform the osteological research because they
had the best "scientific" methodology for "racing"
the recovered skeletons (Dibennardo and Taylor 1983; GSA 1993:n.p.).
Fortunately, under intense community pressure, this paradigm was
supplanted by a more historically and culturally sensitive approach
directed by Michael Blakey of Howard University (LaRoche and Blakey
The second, and related, avoidance strategy
is to depoliticize race by reducing it to "ethnicity"
in a manner that equates centuries of imposed racial identity
with a category such as "Italian-American identity."
As Orser (1999:662) notes, "This facile understanding of
race has made it possible for historical archaeologists to downplay
or sidestep racism as a means of creating and upholding the social
inequalities that characterize American society." According
to Manning Marable (1995:186), the reduction of "race"
to "ethnicity" is facilitated by the simultaneous centrality
and invisibility of "whiteness" within the dominant
The third, and most insidious avoidance
strategy can be characterized as vulgar anti-essentialism or race
obliviousness. The most trenchant critiques of this strategy are
provided by the emerging field of Critical Race Theory (Crenshaw
1995:xxvi; see also Fuss 1989 and McRobbie 1997). As an outgrowth
of the Critical Legal Studies movement, CRT acknowledges, analyzes,
and challenges the fundamental role of the law in the construction
of racial difference and the perpetuation of racial oppression
in American society. As a movement comprised primarily, but not
exclusively, of scholars and activists of color, Critical Race
Theorists, known as "race-crits" to distinguish them
from the "crits" and the "fem-crits," also
believe that personal experiences of racial prejudice inform and
strengthen theoretical analyses. They are therefore particularly
interested in fostering and supporting the distinctive work and
voices of minority scholars and insist-quite reasonably-that the
victims of racial oppression should play a fundamental role in
the analysis of that oppression. Some prominent race-crits include
Derrick Bell (1987, 1996), Kimberlé Crenshaw (1995), Lani
Guinier (1994) Ian Haney López (1994, 1996), Cheryl Harris
(1995), Gary Peller (1985, 1995), Marta Rose (1996), and Patricia
Williams (1991, 1995). (see also Delgado and Stefanic 1993; and
The introduction of the 1995 anthology Critical
Race Theory: The Key Writings That Formed the Movement explains
the initial disjuncture between the Critical Legal Studies movement
and the race-crits:
To be sure, these crits positioned themselves
in a discourse far removed from liberalism-a certain postmodern
critique of identity. Yet the upshot of their position seemed
to be the same: an abiding skepticism, if not outright disdain,
toward any theoretical or political project organized around the
concept of race. Where classical liberalism argued that race was
irrelevant to public policy, these crits argued that race simply
didn't exist. The position is one that [critical race theorists]
have come to call "vulgar anti-essentialism." By this
we seek to capture the claims made by some critical theorists
that since racial categories are not "real" or "natural"
but instead socially constructed, it is theoretically and politically
absurd to center race as a category of analysis or as a basis
for political action. (Crenshaw, et al. 1995:xxvi).
While most race-crits emphatically reject
the concept of biologically distinct races and embrace the premise
that race is, indeed, socially constructed, they nonetheless argue
that race is "real" "in the sense that there is
a dimension and weight to the experience of being 'raced' in American
society, a materiality sustained by law" (Crenshaw, et al.
1995:xxvi; see also Mukhopadhyay and Moses 1997; Harrison 1999).
The analysis of vulgar anti-essentialism
is complemented by Marta Rose's (1996) analysis of "race
obliviousness" in the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision
that invalidated the minority-majority Eleventh Congressional
District in Georgia [Miller v. Johnson, 115 Supreme Court 2475
(1995)]. Drawing upon the work of Harlon Dalton (1995), Rose views
race obliviousness as a natural consequence of white privilege
and notes that the "erasure of race, the invisibility of
whiteness, makes a great deal of sense to those whose race privileges
them in the social, political, and economic realms." (1996:1596).
For most Euro-Americans, whiteness is taken as the unquestioned
norm; therefore, race is either invisible or is thought to be
synonymous with ethnicity. In the Miller decision, the Court majority
appropriated the rhetoric of the Civil Rights movement to advance
a construction of race that is antithetical to the experiences
and interests of most Black Americans. While recognizing that
"respect for communities defined by actual shared interests"
can be a legitimate concern in Congressional redistricting, the
Court asserted that "race" can never serve as "an
actual shared interest" for African Americans. In the Court's
construction, race is entirely discrete from "political,
social, and economic interests;" therefore, the idea that
Blacks might organize politically around race is "an offensive
and demeaning assumption" which "embod[ies] stereotypes
that treat individuals as the product of their race" (Rose
1996:1566). While African Americans have certainly been in the
forefront of struggles to create a political system where race
is not an impediment, the Court appropriates the moral force of
the Civil Rights Movement to advance the proposition that "if
race should not matter in our ideal world, then it cannot matter
now." (Rose 1996:1567).
Within historical archaeology, a recent
example that is relevant to the discussion of vulgar anti-essentialism
and race obliviousness is provided by M. Drake Patten's paper
on the politics surrounding excavation of the Foster Homesite
in Charlottesville, Virginia. I am somewhat sympathetic with her
position; I agree historical archaeologists need to do a better
job "in our public education about race and gender as cultural
constructions." On more than one occasion I have also tried
to explain (somewhat unconvincingly) that "Race may not be
real, but racism is." (1997:138). However, I part company
with Patten when she deploys a social constructionist analysis
to defuse criticism regarding the initial excavation and analysis
of the site by an all-white crew. Catherine Foster, who purchased
the property in 1833 and died in 1863, was enumerated as a "mulatto"
on census forms. Following the Civil War the neighborhood that
developed on and around the Foster property was known as "Canada,"
probably in reference to the haven for escaped slaves. In describing
the controversy arising from excavation of the site, Patten challenges
the present-day definition of Foster as an "African American"
and decries the manner in which Catherine Foster was "utterly
appropriated by the local community, however they might be characterized."
Patten also regrets the use of the tee-shirt slogan "Ask
me about African American archaeology in Charlottesville"
(1977:135). However, as Theresa Singleton (1997:149) has noted,
someone identified on 19th-century census forms as "mulatto"
would probably self-identify today as "African American"
or "multi-racial." Contrary to Patten's implication,
the fact that Foster's living descendants are identified as "white"
negates neither the concerns of the African descent community
nor importance of this site for African American archaeology.
One of the fundamental tenets of Critical
Race Theory is the insistence that we, collectively, must allow
ourselves "to know what we know" (Matsuda 1989). A common
example is the issue of hate speech. We know that a white person's
use of that most vicious of racist epithets is not the equivalent
of a black person yelling "stupid cracker." This knowledge
of social reality should be admitted and reflected in legal analysis.
Therefore, a seemingly neutral law or campus code that punishes
the use of all racial epithets equally, regardless of context,
will, in fact, be inherently biased because it refuses to acknowledge
the structural inequalities arising from racism. Therefore, it
is particularly problematic when Patten asserts an equivalency
between the racial identities ascribed to her and to Catherine
When the [Washington] Post condemned our
project, the focus was not on the questions it raised, nor even
on Catherine, but n me, on my racial identity as white. There
is a certain irony to this: both Catherine Foster and I had become
subject to the same external application of a category, even as
our lives were temporally separated. (1997:137).
Although it was a temporary inconvenience
in the context of the project, Patten's identity as a "white"
person is one that confers status, privilege and power. The same
cannot be said for the categories "Mulatto" or "African
In a chapter entitled "Beyond Racial
Identity Politics: Toward a Liberation Theory for Multiracial
Democracy," Manning Marable (1995:187) states that "'Race'
is first and foremost an unequal relationship between social aggregates,
characterized by dominant and subordinate forms of social interaction,
and reinforced by intricate patterns of public discourse, power,
ownership and privilege within the economic, social and political
institutions of society." However, in addition to being an
imposed identity, "race" can also serve as "the
basis of a historical consciousness-a group's recognition of what
it has witnessed and what it can anticipate in the near future."
The ongoing struggle over the African Burial Ground project in
New York City epitomizes these dual senses of "race."
As noted above, the African American community
in New York City was able to mobilize against the original Burial
Ground research paradigm, forcing a halt to the excavations in
1992 and the transferal of the primary research responsibility
to Howard University. Because of the community intervention, the
original racialist, a-historical, model of human variation was
supplanted by a model that emphasizes genetic affinities between
the burial ground population and populations of origin within
Africa. While addressing the descendant community's interest in
establishing ancestral origins, this maneuver has also resulted
in indisputably better science. In a small-scale, University-funded
pilot project, the Howard University team has been able to use
DNA research to link 32 individuals in the burial ground population
with cultural groups currently living in Ghana, Nigeria, Niger,
Senegal, and Benin (Blakey 1998b).
Although the excavations were halted nearly
seven years ago, struggle over the research, memorialization,
and reinterment continue unabated. Amazingly, African-American
Archaeology has taken little or no note of these struggles. The
latest phase centers upon the efforts of the descendant community
to force the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to honor
the spirit and letter of the memorandum of agreement (MOA). On
January 14, 1999 the World Archaeological Congress, meeting in
Cape Town, South Africa, passed a resolution of concern calling
upon GSA fund the full scope of research, noting that the federal
government is "ethically bound to fulfill its previous agreements
in keeping with the desires of the descendant community for the
disposition of the site, cemetery, and study of human remains."
On January 23 and April 17, 1999 the newly-formed "Friends
of the African Burial Ground" convened public meetings at
the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York
City in an effort to force GSA's compliance with commitments set
forth in the MOA (Harrington 1999).
One of the primary concerns is GSA's apparent
unwillingness to fund the full range of genetic research set forth
in the original research design and agreed to in the 1989 MOA
(as amended in 1991). The connection between the scientific research
and the site's cultural and spiritual significance is quite evident
to the project's community supporters. For example, in the Winter,
1999 issue of Update: Newsletter of the African Burial Ground
& Five Points Archaeological Projects, Barbara Muniz, Founder
and President of the Black American Roots Society, writes: "I
recall there were many of us who stressed the spiritual significance
of this Project, only to be told how important the scientific
part of this Project would be in determining genetic heredity.
Now let's not change in the middle of the stream." Similarly,
Brother Sayeed Samad, an African Burial Ground volunteer and community
activist, writes: "One of the patterns that I've noticed
over time, is that the more important an organization is to me
and my 'family,' the more barriers there are to a stable budget,
the more fragile the organization becomes and the more prone it
is destruction." Finally, In a chapter entitled: "Reclaiming
Culture: The Dialectics of Identity," Leith Mullings (1997:190)
notes that "the dominant group's power to represent the history
and culture of subaltern groups is an important tool in achieving
and maintaining domination. Thus, the recent struggle around the
African Burial Ground in New York City was based on the knowledge
that those who control the interpretation of the past also have
a major role in charting the future." As this article is
being completed, the conflict between the GSA and the descendant
community is far from resolved.
I would like to close with a plea that we
be wary of the dangers of race obliviousness and naive assertions
of colorblindness. Although it is valid and important, the analysis
of race as a social construction should not be deployed to deny
the "reality" of race, particularly for the victims
of racism, nor should it be used to belittle the concerns of minority
descendant communities. In conclusion, as we face the new millenium,
the challenge posed by Critical Race Theorists can be stated quite
simply: we must construct an African Diaspora archaeology that
is simultaneously race-conscious and anti-essentialist. The way
will not be easy, but the task is crucial.
A subscription to "Update: Newsletter of
the African Burial Ground & Five Points Archaeological Projects"
can be obtained at no cost by contacting:
Office of Public Education and Interpretation of the African Burial
6 World Trade Center, Room 239
New York, NY 10048
Phone: (212) 432-5707
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1995 Race-Consciousness, In Critical Race
Theory: The Key Writings That Formed the Movement, edited by K.
Crenshaw, N. Gotanda, G. Peller, and K. Thomas, 127-158, The New
Press, New York.
Perry, Warren R.
1997 Archaeology as Community Service. Society for the Anthropology
of North America Newsletter, pp. 1-3.
1998 Dimensions of Power in Swaziland Research:
Coercion, Reflexivity, and Resistance. Transforming Anthropology
1996 Race Obliviousness and the Invisibility of Whiteness: The
Court's Construction of Race-Miller v. Johnson, 115 S. Ct. 2475
(1995). Temple Law Review 69:1549-1570.
Singleton, Theresa A.
1997 Commentary: Facing the Challenges of a Public African-American
Archaeology. Historical Archaeology 31(3):146-152.
Williams, Patricia J.
1991 The Alchemy of Race and Rights. Harvard University Press,
1995 The Rooster's Egg. Harvard University
Top of Page
Black Loyalist Archaeology at Birchtown,
Laird Niven, Nova Scotia Museum, Halifax,
Nova Scotia (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Nova Scotia Museum's "Black Loyalists,
Black Communities" project is a two-year undertaking attempting
to redress the lack of balance in the study of Afro-Nova Scotians
using historical and archaeological research. The year long archaeology
project was designed to study sites in Tracadie, Guysborough County
and Birchtown, Shelburne County. The subject of this article is
the archaeology of Birchtown, specifically the site known as AkDi-23.
The 1998 archaeology project examined the remains of what is believed
to have been the house of Colonel Stephen Blucke, the man who
led the Black Loyalists to Birchtown. The testing and excavation
revealed the cellar of a relatively substantial building which
appears to have been abandoned at the end of the 18th century.
The artifacts recovered were exceptional, both in quantity and
quality, for what we know of the Black Loyalist period in Birchtown.
They speak of an attempted middle-class existence surrounded by
extreme poverty, a scene of contrast within a community we are
beginning to see as much more vivid and varied than has previously
For the purposes of this report, Black Loyalist refers to all
African-Americans who emigrated to Nova Scotia in the wake of
the American Revolution. This includes the free, the freed, the
indentured, as well as the many slaves White Loyalists continued
Birchtown, Nova Scotia, was founded by Black Loyalists in 1783
and was, at the time, the largest and most significant settlement
of free Blacks in North America. Although its population grew
rapidly, reaching a peak of 1,531 people in 1784, Birchtown did
not thrive. The discrimination and inequity the Black Loyalists
had hoped to escape followed them to Nova Scotia. A race riot
in 1784 and famine in 1789, combined with the poor quality of
the soil, led half of Birchtown's population to join the exodus
for Sierra Leone in 1791. That event essentially heralded the
end of Black Loyalist Birchtown.
The archaeological study of Birchtown, specifically the evidence of the Black Loyalists, began in 1993 when the locally-based Black Loyalist Heritage Society sponsored an archaeological survey
(Niven 1994). There have been minor archaeological projects in
Birchtown every year since 1994. The archaeological evidence to
date tells us that the Black Loyalists lived in shelters ranging
from semi-subterranean emergency shelters to more conventional
cellared houses. A number of very unusual stone mounds (22 in
all) were also identified and mapped in 1995. The mounds are all
well-made and were spaced quite closely together. The partial
excavation of one mound in 1998 did not reveal any insights into
its age or function.
The main subject of the 1998 Birchtown archaeology
project was the suspected home of Colonel Stephen Blucke, the
leader of the Black Loyalists in Birchtown, which historical evidence
suggested was located on the property of Thelma Acker, very close
to the shore. A series of shovel tests confirmed a late-18th century
occupation and also revealed what was thought to be a rock-filled
We knew very little about Colonel Stephen Blucke, let alone about
the house he lived in. He was originally from Barbados, lived
in Birchtown with his wife, mother, and an indentured servant,
was a very well-educated man, and was a veteran of the American
Revolution. Blucke disappears from the historic record in 1796-1797
and his subsequent fate remains a mystery.
[Figure omitted from online version]. Caption: Excavations underway at AkDi-23. Rock-filled
cellar feature is visible in the center. Birchtown Bay lies in
He was also a man of some means and his
house seems to have been quite different from the neighbours who
are almost invariably described as living in 'huts' and "very
poorly Lodged indeed". The one partial description of the
house we have is from William Booth in 1789: "He began by
Building a spacious house( but the Building he has been obliged
to stop the progress of; having only, as far as I could see, completed
his Kitchen, with a small room(" (Booth, 1789: 53; Jeffery,
The excavations on AkDi-23 totaled 100 square
meters and, although architectural information was minimal, did
reveal a large cellar that had been filled at the end of the eighteenth
century. The cellar hole partly uncovered at AkDi-23 measured
approximately 1.49 meters (4.89 feet) from west to east, and 2.69
meters (8.82 feet) from north to south. The area is approximately
4.10 meters square (45 square feet). When it was first dug, the
cellar probably measured nine or 10 feet by five feet. It was
dug to a depth of one meter and cut into the sub-soil with vertical
walls at least on the west, north, and south sides.
Over 13,000 artifacts were recovered during
the 1998 archaeology project, 12,449 from the excavation. Almost
half of the artifacts were found within the rock fill of the cellar
(Lot 12). There was a minimum of 114 ceramic vessels identified,
93 of them from within Lot 12. Over half of those vessels were
made of pearlware (45 or 62.50%) followed closely by creamware
(17 or 23.61%). Six vessels were coarse earthenware (8.33%), two
were porcelain (2.78%), and two stoneware. The mean ceramic date
or the vessels is 1796.59, which conforms very well to what is
known about Blucke's disappearance from the historic record.
Other artifacts of significance were many
military items: a fragment of a triangular bayonet; a sling swivel;
a spur; a British naval boarding axe; and, two white metal buttons
of the Second American Regiment (Irish Volunteers), a Loyalist
regiment operating out of New York from 1780 to 1782.
The archaeological evidence from AkDi-23
is compelling and, at the very least, suggests that one Black
Loyalist, who most likely did not join the rush to Sierra Leone,
had quite a different lifestyle compared to his neighbours. The
most satisfying accomplishment of the project was the combining
of historical and archaeological research, the discovery of new
documents and sites, to illuminate a settlement which was much
richer and more vibrant than traditional history would lead us
Booth, Captain William
1789 Rough Notes and memorandumes, 1789, 208673 #6 Acadia University
Library, Wolfville, Nova Scotia
Jeffery, Reginald, ed.
1907 Dyott's Diary. Constable, London
1994 Birchtown Archaeological Survey (1993). Roseway Publishing
Company, Lockeport, Nova Scotia.
1983 King's Bounty: A History of Early Shelburne, Nova Scotia.
Nova Scotia Museum, Halifax.
[Figure omitted from online version.] Caption: The Rock-filled cellar feature at AkDi-23,
Top of Page
Book Reviews and Notes
A-A A seeks a book review editor! This individual
will be responsible for soliciting materials for review, making
review assignments, and editing reviews. The goal is the inclusion
of at least one full-length review in each issue of A-A A.
Applicants should have considerable knowledge
of African-American archaeology and history and experience in
the preparation of scholarly manuscripts. Ability to communicate
via email and transfer files over the Internet is critical.
Anyone interested should contact John McCarthy
at (301) 220-1876, or via email at (email@example.com)
Please do not submit resumes or writing samples as part of initial
In the interim, the following titles are
available for review. If interested in preparing a review of 500-1,000
words on any of these titles, please contact John McCarthy.Boonzaier et al. 1997, The Cape Herders:
A History of the Khikhoi of South Africa.
Cottman 1999, The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie.
Johnson et al. 1998, Africans in America: America's Journey through
Koverman 1998, I Made This Jar: Life and Works of the Enslaved
African-American Potter, Dave.
Kusimba 1999, The Rise and Fall of Swahili States.
Pwiti and Soper (editors) 1996, Aspects of African Archaeology.
Shell 1997, Children of Bondage.
Taylor (editor) 1999, I Was born a Slave, Vol. 1 , 1772-1849.
Taylor (editor) 1999, I Was Born a Slave, Vol. 2, 1849-1866.
Top of Page
Baule: African Art, Western Eyes.
Susan Mullin Vogel. Yale University Press,
New Haven and London, 1997. 312 pp., plates, glossary, exhibition
checklist, bibliography, and index. $65.00 (cloth), $35.00 (paper).
This volume presents an extremely complete
picture of the Baule people of the central Ivory Coast and their
material culture. Richly illustrated (it is an exhibition catalogue)
and well-documented, Vogel's analysis attempts to present Baule
art from the "author's" view point, using quotations
from Baule individuals to argue that the Baule do not think of
the beautiful objects that they create in the same way that we
do in the West. She states that the Baule, like the Igbo, appear
to feel that the process of art is more important than the product
(p. 292). However, the Baule admit to the presence of beautiful
objects in their lives, and that these objects are special because
of their power to affect lives in various ways.
Beginning with an introduction to the Baule
and her involvement with them, Vogel divides the text into eight
chapters in two parts. The first four chapters discuss the Western
approach to Baule art, the Baule world, art in the Baule world,
and Baule attitudes toward art and looking at it. Chapter One,
"Baule Art: The View from the West," discusses the form
and style of Baule art in conventional Western terms. In the second
chapter, "The Baule World," a structuralist/functionalist
discussion of the moieties of male/female, human/spirit, and village/wilderness
is presented, although some of the "fuzzy" areas between
these dichotomies are explored, such as masquerade performances
that blur the distinction between male and female. ). The sculptures
that the West classifies as art are revealed as devices for regulating
relationships between the human and spirit worlds. In "Art
and the Baule," Vogel approaches the difficult question of
meaning: if the Baule don't think of these objects the same way
Westerners do, then how do the Baule consider them? She introduces
the notion that sculptural objects (art) are "resonant"
objects important in other ways than for their beauty. They are
physical manifestations of spirit powers which are very real and
intensely felt by the Baule.
The second part of the book is organized
according to the different ways of "seeing" in Baule
terms. Thus, the last four chapters discuss Baule art from the
point of view of visibility and seeing: prolonged looking (watching
of performance arts), avoidance of looking (sacred arts), glimpsing
(private or personal arts), and everyday availability (profane
or everyday arts. Chapter Four, "Art, Darkness and Visual
Memory," is based on Vogel's recent interviews regarding
meanings of art according to the Baule. The focus shifts from
a positivistic search for meaning in Western terms, to a reflexive
search for multiple meanings based in multiple contexts. The power
of objects and of sight are discussed in Baule terms. Chapters
Five through Eight continue the reflexive approach introduced
here. Different categories of Baule art, organized according to
degrees of visibility: public performance art (Mblo and Goli masquerades)
in Chapter Five; art that is "seen without looking,"
or sacred art for family shrines, men's masquerades, the women's
special dance and equipment belonging to trance diviners in Chapter
Six; private art ("art that is glimpsed") in Chapter
Seven; and art that is visible in everyday life ("Art That
is Visible to All: The Profane") in Chapter Eight. Divination
vessels, weaver's paraphernalia, carved stools and chairs, drums,
spoons, miniature bronze objects for measuring and storing gold,
decorated pottery, combs, slingshots, doors, and shutters all
fall into this category.
While, as an archaeologist, one could have
wished for more discussion of ceramics, this is a minor quibble
in the context of the wealth of material considered and the multiple
contexts of meaning explored in this volume.
Top of Page
Disowning Slavery: Gradual Emancipation
and "Race" in New England, 1780-1860.
Joanne Pope Melish. Cornell University
Press, Ithaca and London, 1998. 285 pp., illustrations, references,
and index. $35.00 (cloth).
Slavery in the north, and in New England
in particular, has been the focus of little scholarly attention.
Melish's book seeks, in her words, to put "slavery and the
painful process of gradual emancipation back into the history
of New England (p. 200)." While previous scholarship has
held slavery in New England as peripheral to the economic, social,
and political development of the region, Melish argues that slavery
had a powerful impact on the thinking of New Englanders - their
view of the region as "free and white" produced a sort
of historical amnesia that sought to erase slavery and African
Americans from the history of the region.
Various local sources including town records,
court records, slaveholders' diaries, and the letters, narratives,
and freedom petitions of slaves are used to bring the reader into
the world of New England masters and slaves. Melish illuminates
their daily interactions and offers interpretations of how masters
and slaves each differently understood the meaning of slavery
Melish argues that it was the unsettling
process of gradual emancipation in the region after the American
Revolution that stirred fears of disorderly African Americans
threatening the new republic. While African Americans assumed
that they would become free and independent citizens, the Euro
American majority experienced anxiety about racial identity, freedom,
and servitude. Beginning in the late 18th century, New England
Europeans gradually resolved these questions bycoming to regard
Africans as inherently inferior and in need of control. She argues
that a clear ideology of race developed in which "racial"
characteristics came to be seen as immutable, inherited, and located
in the body.
The rise and application of an ideology
of race is central to Melish's analysis. Here she pushes to locate
precisely when and how Americans racialized difference and came
to define "blackness" and "whiteness" as fixed,
biological categories. Melish suggests that New England was first
in developing a new ideology of race because of its early experience
with slave emancipation. However, the struggle to define the meaning
of emancipation and the fundamental nature and place of African
Americans in the new republic was taking place in the upper South,
where manumissions increased during and after the American Revolution.
Clearly, the analysis of race in the early republic will need
to be broadened. None the less, this is an important book for
anyone interested in slavery, abolition, and emancipation.
Top of Page
Seizing the New Day: African Americans
in Post-Civil War Charleston.
Wilbert L. Jenkins. Indiana University
Press, Bloomington, 1998. xvi + 238 pp., bibliographical essay,
notes, appendix, and index. $29.95 (cloth)
In this volume, Jenkins promises correctives
to the traditional story of the African-American experience during
construction. Where the standard accounts treat regional or state-wide
patterns, he focuses on local history; where predecessors have
emphasized the political experience of freedmen, he concentrates
on the social and economic; and where other historians have too
often treated post-war African Americans as a homogeneous group,
he reveals the wide diversity within that community. The volume
consists of seven chapters which treat in turn: 1) the nature
of slavery in Charleston, 2) the immediate impact of manumission,
3) the struggle for economic independence and security, 4) the
quest for education, 5) the effects of emancipation on family
and community life, 6) the establishment of independent churches,
and 7) the efforts (sometimes violent, sometimes political) community
members made to protect and enhance their new freedom.
It is in the realization of his first objective
that Jenkins is most successful. This is, first and foremost,
a local history which thoroughly documents the triumphs and tragedies,
successes and failures, and hopes and disappointments of African
Americans during the first few years of freedom in Charleston.
Charleston's African Americans enjoyed their greatest successes
in those arenas where defining freedom was least dependent on
white approval or cooperation - family and religion. For example,
family life "achieved a degree of stability by 1870. Of black
adults living in all-black households, the percentage of those
who were married was in fact strikingly close to the percentage
of married white adults living in all-white households" (p.
While politics may have been over-emphasized
by some writers, Jenkins presents no comprehensive discussion
of the subject. Yet, politics, in one way or another, was an important
tool in the quest to achieve social and economic freedom. While
it is recognized as such in many of the chapters, the emphasis
clearly lies elsewhere. Voting, for example, is discussed only
briefly in a single paragraph on page 145 where one learns simply
that "freedmen were encouraged to register and vote."
Jenkins third corrective, a focus on the
heterogeneity of the African-American community, is very effectively.
The free black population in Charleston had always been large,
ranging up to as much as 20 percent of the total African descended
population. Predominantly mulatto, this group included both laborers,
who were poorly treated, and a very small, but wealthy, elite,
members of which often owned slaves themselves. At the war's end,
former slaves in Charleston were joined by an influx of freed
agricultural laborers. Although often united, these various subgroups
were frequently divided by social and economic distinctions, and
intraracial bickering was one of the factors which led to the
collapse of the Republican Party in the city.
In an epilogue, Jenkins briefly treats the
unraveling of Reconstruction and the erosion of economic status
and civil and political rights in the late 19th century. "Blacks
in Charleston and throughout the South took one step forward and
two steps backward. The gallant struggle of black Charlestonians
to acquire first-class American citizenship represented their
first civil rights movement" (p. 163).
This is a carefully researched, tightly
written, and logically organized volume that makes good use of
a wide range of primary sources. It joins a growing literature
on the post-emancipation experiences of former slaves that can
provide a richer context for archaeological interpretation.
Top of Page
News and Announcements
The Washington College Field School in Archaeology
is working on two African-American sites from June 1 through July
9, 1999. The first is the Frederick Douglass Birthplace, a plantation
in northern Talbot County. Fieldwork will concentrate on survey
and reconnaissance to locate the plantation buildings and cabin
in which the abolitionist was raised. The second site is located
on the Hermitage in Queen Anne's County, where excavation is focusing
on slave quarters, including still-standing 18th Century cabin.
Excavations are seeking structural details of the surviving quarter
remains of other buildings that stood nearby. Contact Dr. John
for more information.
The Forrest C. Pogue Public History Institute
has received a $3,700 grant from the Kentucky African American
Heritage Commission to develop interpretive materials on the lives
of African Americans at Columbus, Kentucky during the Civil War.
The project will collect and make available information about
the little-known, but important, role that Kentucky African-American
troops played in the Civil War. The principal researcher will
be Bill Mulligan, associate professor of history, director of
the Forrest C. Pogue Public History Institute, and A-A A subscriber.
The SHA Gender & Minority Relations
committee is sponsoring a session for the January, 2000 annual
meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology in Quebec City.
The title of the session will be: "African-Canadian Archaeological
sites: The North Star of the Diaspora." The organizers have
asked the following question: What do Canadian sites associated
with the African descendant population reveal about continuity
and change as this population adapted to their surroundings and
circumstances? The session will encompass papers highlighting
current or recent excavations of African descendant sites in Canada,
and U.S. or Caribbean sites that have links to Canada. Contact
either of the organizers for more information:
Bonnie Ryan, E.S. Bird Library, Syracuse University, Syracuse,
NY 13244, (315) 443-4674 [(315) 443-9510 fax] (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Cheryl LaRoche, 10 Oaklyn Court, Potomac, MD 20854 (email@example.com)
The Journal of Caribbean Archaeology seeks submissions related
to all aspects of prehistoric and historic archaeological research
in the Caribbean and surrounding area. The journal will be refereed.
Visit the JCA web site at http://www.
flmnh.ufl.edu/jca/ for additional information.
Contours is a new, multidisciplinary, refereed
scholarly journal exploring the experiences of people of African
descent throughout the world. They are particularly interested
in submissions focusing on African-American archaeology. Contours
will be published three times a year by Indiana University Press
and is supported by the African and African-American studies program
and the history department at Duke University. The editor is David
Barry Gaspar, Professor of History, Duke University. For more
information, call (919) 660-3197 email: (LLHORN@acpub.duke.edu)
Call for contributions to *assemblage* on-line, peer reviewed
archaeological journal produced by the graduate students of archaeology
and archaeological science at the University of Sheffield, United
Kingdom. *assemblage* covers diverse topics and issues in archaeology.
Past issues can be found at http://www/shef/ac/uk/assem/3/3comment.html.
Submissions are sought from archaeology postgraduate students
and professionals for Issue 5 (which will be on-line by the end
of November 1999). *assemblage* includes the following sections:
Research Papers (3000 - 5000 words); Features (2000 - 3000 words);
Forum on "Archaeology and Ethnicity"; State of the Arch
(methods, less than 2000 words); Field Notes (short articles or
snippets); Reviews (book, television, conference, CD-ROM); Fun
Pages (jokes, anecdotes, acrostics, crosswords, cartoons); and
Info Section (brief entries for conferences, seminars, lectures).
Top of Page
The Chicora Foundation Black History Studies
are now on the web at http://www.sciway.net/hist/slavery.htm
thanks to the financial support of Blue Cross and Blue Shield
of South Carolina. These historical and archaeological studies
focus on the everyday life of South Carolina slaves and freedmen.
Additional information is available at the foundation's own web
site at http://www.chicora.org.
A Community Remembers focuses on the history
of African-American life in Princeton, New Jersey. This is an
on-line exhibit from the Historical Society of Princeton. It can
be found at http://www.princetonol.com/groups/histsoc/aalife/.
A new database of African-American photographs
has been made available on the web by the Alderman Library of
the University of Virginia. The Jackson Davis Collection consists
of approximately 4,000 photographs of African-American educational
scenes in the southern United States, as well as several hundred
scenes taken in Liberia, Congo, and other African countries. The
U.S. photographs were taken by Jackson Davis during the period
ca. 1915-1930 when he was affiliated with the General Education
Board in New York, New York. Davis served as a field agent, as
the board's general field agent, as associate director in 1933
and as vice-president and director in 1946. http://www.lib.virginia.edu/speccol/jdavis/
Announcing H-Afresearch - H-Net Network
on Research in African Primary Sources. This list is devoted to
the discussion of issues surrounding the use of primary sources
in African humanities and social sciences research. Primary sources
are defined broadly to include traditional archival records, manuscripts
and personal papers; photograph and film collections; field notes,
oral data and music collections; and material culture and artifacts.
Focusing on the research process will allow researchers to get
informed responses to practical questions, from both other researchers
and the caretakers of the raw materials of research - in Africa
or outside the continent. Like other H-net lists, H-AFRESEARCH
is moderated. Susan Tschabrun, California State University, (firstname.lastname@example.org),
and Kathryn Green, California State University, (email@example.com)
are the initial co-editors.
Message logs and more information about
H-AFRESEARCH may be obtained at its website, linked from the H-Net
website: http://www.h-net.msu.edu/. To subscribe, send the following
line as the only text of an e-mail message (no styles, fonts,
or signature files, turn off word-wrap for long addresses) from
the account you wish subscribed to LISTSERV@h-net.msu.edu:
SUBSCRIBE H-AFRESEARCH firstname lastname, institution.
Top of Page
P. McCarthy, Greenhorne & O'Mara, Inc., 9001 Edmonston Road,
Greenbelt, MD 20770 (301) 220-1876
Assistant Editor: Paul
Mullins, Anthropology Program, George Mason University, MSN-3G5,
Fairfax, VA 22030
Book Reviews: This
could be YOU! Contact John McCarthy if interested.
McDavid, 1406 Sul Ross, Houston, TX 77007
Garmon, Public Archaeology Laboratory, Inc., 210 Lonsdale Avenue,
Pawtucket, RI 02860 (401) 728-8780
Heath, The Corporation for Jefferson's Poplar Forest, P. O. Box
419, Forest, VA 24551
W. Joseph, New South Associates, Inc. 6150 East Ponce de Leon
Ave., Stone Mountain, GA 30083 (770) 498-4155
Farnsworth, Dept. of Geography and Anthropology, Louisiana State
University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803
Emerson, Anthropology Department, Southern Illinois University,
Edwardsville, IL 62026 (618) 692-5689
Mid-South/So. Plains: Leslie "Skip" Stewart-Abernathy, Arkansas
Archaeological Survey, P. O. Box 8706 AKU, Russellville, AK 72801
Wilkie, Anthropology Department, University of California, Berkeley,
Top of Page
Subscriptions, by the calendar year, are:
$4.00 student; $6.00 individual;$8.00 institutions/outside the
USA. Payable by check to: "African-American Archaeology"
Electronic version compiled by Thomas
R. Wheaton, New South Associates, Inc.
Amount enclosed $_____________
Address Line 1 _________________________________________________________________________
Address Line 2 _________________________________________________________________________
City, State/Prov., Zip/Postal Code, Country:______________________________________________________
Daytime Telephone: (______)_____________________ E-mail: ___________________________________
c/o John P. McCarthy, RPA
Greenhorne & O'Mara, Inc.
9001 Edmonston Road
Greenbelt, MD 20770-1083
©2005 African Diaspora Archaeology Network
Please send comments or questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Last updated: April 16, 2005