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May 2005 Newsletter

ISSN: 1933-8651

In this month's online newsletter, we feature online exhibits, update articles, a book review, a review of internet resources, news items, and publication announcements:

The Quest for a Capital by John Michael Vlach

Updates on Archaeology in Annapolis by Mark P. Leone et al.

The Gilmore Farm Site by Matthew Reeves

Buffalo Soldiers Archaeology Project by K. Chatman et al.

Review of "From Calabar to Carter's Grove" by Kenneth G. Kelly

Black British Heritage Internet Resources by Richard Paul Benjamin

News: DAACS Receives Second Mellon Grant

Announcement: Left Coast Press

New Book: "Creole Economics"

New Book: "No Space Hidden"

Announcement: Archaeology Workshops for Teachers

The Quest for a Capital

By John Michael Vlach

Vlach article image

John Vlach presents an online exhibit and article focusing on the eighteenth-century plantation landscape of Capitol Hill and the development of the "Federal City" on the Potomac.

Updates on Archaeology in Annapolis
and the Eastern Shore of Maryland

By Mark P. Leone, Matthew Palus,
Jennifer J. Babiarz, and Lisa Kraus, Archaeology in Annapolis

Archaeology in Annapolis excavations

Archaeology in Annapolis has been digging on William Paca's 1790 plantation on Wye Island on Maryland's Eastern Shore for five years. In the summer of 2004, archaeological field school students excavated a domestic area dating from 1790 to 1950. The remains of an early twentieth-century tenant farm still stand on the site, but extensive shovel testing by Dr. James Harmon in 2001 uncovered 18th century artifacts from the tenant farm area. These artifacts indicate that the tenant farm may have been built on the site of an older slave quarter, which would have housed the large population of enslaved Africans held by Paca and his family. In the late 18th century, Paca owned about 100 slaves, a population which grew to 150 by 1860.

Four ruined buildings were discovered through excavation, two of them on shallow brick foundations and without basements. It is unlikely that the buildings were more than one story. We recovered utilitarian ceramics and very little porcelain, and there is a sense that dishes were mixed and matched, and not in sets. In light midden deposits adjacent to these structures, we found domestic materials in substantial quantity such as thimbles, buttons, faunal remains, and enough similar material to identify this without doubt as a living area. We have also found a worked bone ring or tube, a piece of a clockworks, and marbles. Although we are certain that these buildings were domestic and that they were not surrounded by extensive work areas, there is only slender evidence yet of their being a quarter for enslaved Africans and African-Americans. More work in the summer of 2005 will be devoted to exploring for patterns interpretable as evidence for slave domestic life. Suggestions for evidence would be most welcome.

The University of Maryland's archaeological field school will also excavate at Wye House on the mainland of the Eastern Shore, immediately south of Wye Island. Wye House is intact and has been owned by the Lloyd family since the 1660s. Frederick Douglass spent a portion of his childhood on this property as the slave of one of the Lloyd family overseers. The family has invited Archaeology in Annapolis to do a survey of Long Green, where some of the slave quarters once stood and where many of the workshops of the plantation were built. Now this is a grassy stretch between the Great House and modern fields. The survey will involve a pedestrian walk over, magnetometry and soil resistivity surveys, and excavation. The Lloyd family is keenly interested in historic preservation, particularly for all its holdings. Archaeology in Annapolis will provide appropriate data analysis of the first season of survey work.

In the immediate neighborhood of Wye House are several communities of African Americans, including descendants of Lloyd family slaves. These towns were mainly founded during Emancipation, by Civil War solders and freed slaves. We are organizing the development of long-term working relationships with members of these communities, including understanding their questions of Wye House and its archaeology and how we might design our research around questions that they want answered.

The archaeological field school is directed by Mark Leone. Matthew Palus is Assistant Director. The archaeology and historical context of Wye Hall form the basis of the Ph.D. dissertation of Jennifer Babiarz, of the Department of Anthropology, University of Texas, Austin. Her advisor is Maria Franklin. The materials from Wye House and the associated documents that comment on the Lloyd family slaves will become the Ph.D. dissertation of Lisa Kraus, of the Department of Anthropology, University of Texas, Austin, also working under Maria Franklin’s advisement.

In Annapolis, the Banneker-Douglass Museum, the State of Maryland's Center for African American History and Culture has built a new wing. Its first temporary exhibit will be the archaeology of the block surrounding the museum, which was mostly African-American residences and in places African-American property. The museum's core is an African Methodist Episcopal Church building that was saved from demolition by Historic Annapolis Foundation. During archaeological research on the surrounding block, the museum's staff played a leading role in defining the questions and the possibility for obtaining answers through archaeology for the members of Archaeology in Annapolis beginning in 1990. The archaeology to be exhibited is from middle class houses owned by African-American Annapolitans. The archaeology includes a commentary on life in the tenements hidden from sight by middle class housing. The archaeology clearly shows two classes of wealth in the African American community between the 1830s and the 1970s, when the block was destroyed. Material exhibited comes from dissertations written by Paul Mullins (Ph.D. UMASS Amherst), Mark Warner (Ph.D. University of Virginia), and Eric Larson (Ph.D. SUNY Buffalo). This will be the third Banneker-Douglass exhibit of African-American archaeology from Archaeology in Annapolis. The exhibit will open in the early fall 2005. The exhibit was organized by Dr. Elizabeth Stewart, Curator at the Banneker-Douglass Museum, with assistance Amelia Chisholm, MAA, from the Department of Anthropology, University of Maryland, College Park.

Finally, Archaeology in Annapolis has completed excavations in the Eastport neighborhood of Annapolis, which were carried out by field school students from the University of Maryland College Park from 2001-2004. Eastport was founded as an independent community by land speculators following the American Civil War, and developed into a racially and ethnically diverse, predominantly working-class village with close economic ties to Annapolis. Matthew Palus, who directed this research, is preparing his dissertation for the Department of Anthropology at Columbia University, under the direction of Nan Rothschild. Unlike the historic core of Annapolis, Eastport presented important opportunities for land ownership among lower- and middle-class families of African-American and European descent. Eastport was annexed into the City of Annapolis in 1951, but was gradually and thoroughly "colonized" with public services and utilities during the first half of the twentieth century. Matthew Palus has used the archaeological remains from eight house lots to look at the acceptance or rejection of this infrastructure, including water, gas, sewer and sanitation service, as well as above-ground utilities like electricity. These relations are still being played out today in the relationships and tensions between development, zoning, and historic preservation in the neighborhood.

Archaeology in Annapolis continues its commitment to understanding African American heritage and to working with community members and interested scholars to define needs and meanings for archaeological work.

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The Gilmore Farm Site

By Matthew Reeves and the Montpelier Archaeology Program

Gilmore house in 1920s

"George Gilmore, born a slave on the Montpelier plantation about 1810, was freed with the Federal occupation of Orange County in 1865. With his wife Polly and three children, he established a small farmstead near the plantation where he had been enslaved. Over time, they purchased 16 acres of land from Dr. James A. Madison, grand-nephew of the President. Three generations of the Gilmore family lived here prior to its sale in 1920. Today, the cabin and farm illustrate the history of the African-American transition from slavery to freedom, and document their hard-won success in purchasing land, building their own home, and establishing new lives after emancipation."

A poster presentation of findings concerning this site and the family's history is available in a large pdf file, or learn more about this site through Montpelier's web presentation.

The Buffalo Soldiers Archaeology Project

By K. Chatman, L. Richbow, S. Oglesby,
S. Williams, and E. King, Howard University

Peggy Brunache recommends readers' attention to the "Warriors Project: Rediscovering Buffalo Soldiers on the Western Frontier," which is the subject of recent media attention.

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Book Review

book cover

Ken Kelly originally wrote the following book review for publication in a hard-copy edition of the African-American Archaeology Newsletter a few years ago. When that publication ceased operations, he saved the review, awaiting renewal of the newsletter. We all appreciate his patience, and now publish his review here in the new, online newsletter.

From Calabar to Carter's Grove: The History of a Virginia Slave Community.
Lorena S. Walsh
University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville. xiii + 335 pp., maps, figures, tables, bibliography, index. 1997

     Kenneth G. Kelly
     Department of Anthropology, University of South Carolina

From Calabar to Carter's Grove is the inaugural volume in a new series of Colonial Williamsburg Studies in Chesapeake History, published with the University Press of Virginia. The book's origin lies the conscious decision of Colonial Williamsburg to actively engage in the historical interpretation of the African American experience, particularly as depicted through the venue of the reconstructed "slave quarter" at Carter's Grove Plantation. Walsh's work specifically attempts to satisfy the need to develop a more site specific historical account than the more general regionally focused investigations of enslaved African American experiences that predominate in the historiography of African America. Indeed a reliable hallmark of Colonial Williamsburg's presentation has been tightly researched historical accounts of specific individuals important in the regions' history, and Walsh initially hoped to accomplish a similar treatment of the African American residents at the Carter's Grove quarter. However, as Carter's Grove is a relatively poorly documented plantation, and thus detailed individual histories are elusive, Walsh has instead concentrated on portraying the history of the community of Africans and African Americans who lived for some 125 years on a series of properties owned by the Burwell family, in the vicinity of Williamsburg.

The community's origin lies in the melding together in 1738 of two branches, one recently enslaved, and the other a creolized group of African American pioneers with several generations of links in the colony. The creolized branch was descended from that group of African Americans assembled by Lewis Burwell II, the first "creole" Burwell, who witnessed the fundamental transformation of late 17th century Virginia from a region where those who toiled were primarily indentured servants, to one where enslaved Africans made up a substantial proportion of the population. Walsh uses the existing records to discuss the demography and origins of this creolized group. Some were probably acquired from the Caribbean, but others were transported directly from Africa. Interesting discussions include findings about acquisition patterns, the sex ratios and childbearing patterns on the various properties, and their possible implications for linguistic and cultural developments within the various quarters. Walsh also develops a strong contextual history of the first group, the recently enslaved Africans based upon her ability to trace specific individuals. Using these individual histories, coupled with conjectural interpretations for those not specified in the records, she is able to suggest a range of lifestyle possibilities Africans from the Bight of Benin and Bight of Biafra might have possessed.

With this demographic foundation, Walsh then launches into an exploration of the next 150 years of African American experience on the Burwell properties between the James and York Rivers. She discusses the consequences of population stabilization in the mid 18th century, as sex ratios evened out, and family based reproductive and, more importantly, social units became the norm. These family groups, and the corresponding webs of kin relations they represent, indicate the growing strength of a sense of community in the region. She argues that the decrease in frequency of names imposed by the owners, and the corresponding increase in African-American chosen names suggests a trend towards a greater degree of autonomy within the quarters.

The period of relative stability that had developed in the mid 18th century came to an end with the American Revolution. Whereas previously the community had suffered relatively few disruptions through the breaking up of kin units, the political and economic turmoil of the revolution meant that some family groups were torn asunder, as enslaved people were sold, or moved to new properties further from the centers of revolutionary conflict. This trend was further exacerbated after the revolutionary war, as economic transformations throughout the region led to the great migration of enslaved laborers to new agricultural enterprises further west.

Throughout Walsh's discussion we are reminded that the usefulness of this study is that it is an exploration of specific events on particular properties, yet that the processes described are not unique. They are indeed common to the region, and thus the strength of the book is that it so engagingly uses the experiences of a relatively few identifiable people to illustrate the social history of tidewater plantations from the perspective of the laborers bound by law to work out their lives on those farms.

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Black British Heritage Internet Resources

By Richard Paul Benjamin

map of old Britain


The following internet resources were current and accessible up to May 1st 2005. It should be remembered that due to the fact that electronic links can often fail and URL addresses can change, this might not be the case after these dates.

In the past few years there has been an explosion of resources which pertain not only to the black community in Britain as a whole, but to the study of black history and heritage. There are two reasons in particular why this is the case. Access to the internet has grown and as such it is now more than ever used as a supplementary educational tool, by teachers, parents and schoolchildren. Secondly, as members of the black community themselves become more aware that there are such things as resources addressing "Black British history" they are more likely to look for such information.

One thing should be understood about the creation of some of these resources. Many of them were designed by interested individuals, possibly amateur historians, who may well have gained much of their information from other resources, rather than having carried out an original piece of scholarly research. But this can also be the case for resources created by national bodies and local authorities. This in no way undermines the relevance and importance of such sites but it has to be taken into account. The study of black history and heritage is a fairly new phenomenon in Britain, and there simply is not a great number of academics who are engaged at an university level in such research. Hopefully this situation will change, and as more people in Britain become interested in their African heritage these resources may well assist them in such research endeavors.


By Region

North East

North West

Yorkshire and Humberside

West Midlands

East Midlands

East Anglia

  • Norfolk Education & Action for Development (NEAD):
    A Development Education Association (DEA) website which raises awareness and understanding of global and development issues in the UK. Has a black history of Norfolk section

South West

South East




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News: DAACS Receives Second Mellon Grant

DAACS image

The Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery, hosted by Monticello, received a second grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in late 2004, in the amount of $570,000. The Mellon Foundation also awarded DAACS a $604,000 grant in 2000 to support the launching of this multi-site research initiative.

The new grant from the Mellon Foundation will allow the scope of the DAACS project to be expanded to include data from additional locations in Virginia and sites in Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Jamaica. "Adding data from sites outside Virginia will enable us to understand better the historical consequences of variation in enslaved people's African origins, and the disease environments and labor requirements they faced in the New World," said Jillian Galle, who has managed the DAACS project since its inception in 2000.

Announcement: Left Coast Press

Announcing Left Coast Press, Inc.: Founded in March 2005, Left Coast is designed as a full service publisher for archaeologists, publishing a wide range of products -- textbooks, high quality academic works, reference volumes, periodicals, electronic products, and information in other formats for scholars and students in academic settings, professionals in the private sector and government, and informed readers in the wider world. We have a special interest in publications that use research and theory to inform best practices in cultural resources management and public archaeology. Left Coast Press, Inc. is run by Mitch Allen, founder and former publisher of AltaMira Press. For further information, please check the LC website at Contact information: 1630 North Main Street, No. 400, Walnut Creek, California 94596. (925) 935-3380 phone and fax. Email:

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Announcement: New Book

Creole Economics: Caribbean Cunning Under the French Flag.
Katherine E. Browne
University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas. 291 pp., 19 halftones, 24 line drawings, 3 figures, 1 map. 2004.

book cover

Promotional announcement from the author --

"In this innovative work, Browne pierces the silence that has hidden the world of creole economics in the literature on the Antilles. The men's social world of creoleness has been much written about. But the ways that creoleness infuses everyday economic life, the ways that these practices that were built up in resistance (first to slavery, later to colonialism) actually operate, has never before been laid bare. A fine example of how anthropology still has something original to teach us." -- Richard Price, Dittman Professor of American Studies, Anthropology, and History at the College of William & Mary.

Creole Economics is as basic to slave adaptations as creole languages, religions, and music.

What do the trickster Rabbit, slave descendants, off-the-books economies, and French citizens have to do with each other? Plenty, says Katherine Browne in her anthropological investigation of the informal economy in the Caribbean island of Martinique. She begins with a question: Why, after more than three hundred years as colonial subjects of France, did the residents of Martinique opt in 1946 to integrate fully with France, the very nation that had enslaved their ancestors? The author suggests that the choice to decline sovereignty reflects the same clear-headed opportunism that defines successful, crafty, and illicit entrepreneurs who work off the books in Martinique today.

Browne draws on a decade of ethnographic fieldwork and interview data from all socioeconomic sectors to question the common understanding of informal economies as culture-free, survival strategies of the poor. Anchoring her own insights to longer historical and literary views, the author shows how adaptations of cunning have been reinforced since the days of plantation slavery. These adaptations occur, not in spite of French economic and political control, but rather because of it. Powered by the "essential tensions" of maintaining French and Creole identities, the practice of creole economics provides both assertion of and refuge from the difficulties of being dark-skinned and French.

This powerful ethnographic study shows how local economic meanings and plural identities help explain work off the books. Like creole language and music, creole economics expresses an irreducibly complex blend of historical, contemporary, and cultural influences.

Announcement: New Book

No Space Hidden: The Spirit of African American Yard Work.
Grey Gundaker and Judith McWillie
University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, Tennessee. 237 pp., 2005.

book cover

Gundaker and McWillie open this study with the following quote from artist Lonnie Holley (1987):

"Time, for me, works like a door. You have to go through time in order to be in it. It seems like one big cycle from within, like a spring. You start at the inner most part of the spring and you move outward as you grow. And, as you grow, this material­istic body, which is flesh, takes its place and acts; then it falls back to the beginning to recreate itself. Time is standing still if one is not moving in it; and, if one is moving in it, time moves so fast that we cannot keep up with it. We can speed through time and then we can be in time and not move at all. Man could stay still and time won't even matter. But if man is moving in time and trying to keep up with time itself, then he'll some­how or another be like time, out-run himself. Because there is no distance, there is no limit, no space hidden."

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Announcement: Archaeology Workshops for Teachers

The Department of Anthropology, Montgomery College and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announce:

Two Archaeology Workshops for Social Studies Teachers in the Summer 2005

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Last updated: December 22, 2005
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