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December 2005 Newsletter

ISSN: 1933-8651

In this issue we present the following articles, news, announcements, and reviews:

Articles, Essays, and Reports News and Announcements Conferences and Calls for Papers Book Review

Archeological Griots:
An Environmental History Program at Miller Grove,
a Free Ante-Bellum African American Community in Southern Illinois

By Mary R. McCorvie
Shawnee National Forest

In Roots, Alex Haley wrote of a heated exchange between his mother and his grandmother: "Oh Maw, I wish you'd stop all that old-timey slavery stuff, it's entirely embarrassing." Grandma would snap back, "If you don't care who you are or where you came from, well I does!" This generational rift seems to be fairly characteristic of different people's attitudes toward African American heritage in general and slavery in particular. Because of it many families have become disconnected from their own heritage. It has also caused entire generations of African American families to be clueless in regard to not only their own family heritage, but also the often times long, rich and unique heritage of individual ethnic groups within their local regions as a whole.

Beginning in 1995, the Heritage Program of the Shawnee National Forest has been conducting archaeological excavation at sites related to African American heritage. Initially we conducted archival and archaeological research at Camp Pomona, an African American Civilian conservation Corps camp. We interviewed CCC enrollees and mapped the remains of the camp structures and cultural landscape. We also excavated a small portion of the camp discard area where we recovered quartermaster corps military-issued items, as well as personal artifacts.

In 1998 we began to conduct archival and archaeological research at a number of African American farmsteads that were initially occupied in the years before the Civil War. This collection of farmsteads made up the community that has come to be known as Miller Grove. Miller Grove is the remains of an African American community that was originally settled in 1844 by freed slaves from who emigrated from Tennessee. A number of families from Marshall, Hardeman and Henry Counties eventually settled and took up farming and housekeeping in this rural southern Illinois community. The community was named for Bedford Miller who traveled to Miller Grove with his parents, Harrison and Lucinda Miller, when he was nine years old. The Miller family had been freed by Andrew Miller and his sister, Matilda Miller.

The majority of work at Miller Grove has been conducted under two Forest Service programs: Passport in Time and the Historically Black College and University Comprehensive Program, also known as HBCUCP. The HBCUCP program was designed to make minority students aware of non-traditional career opportunities, such as archaeology and heritage resource management. Each summer we recruit two African American students from Tennessee State University, an 1890 Historic Black University in Nashville, to come work with us for the summer. Passport in Time is the Forest Service's public outreach initiative for the Heritage Program. Though Passport in Time, we are able to invite members of the public come learn about such diverse heritage topics as archaeology, Custer's Last Stand, Native American basket weaving, fire tower rehabilitation, rock art, or African American quilting.

Miller Grove excavators

Passport in Time excavation team at Miller Grove.

In 2003 we added a new project to our outreach program: a summer conservation education day camp. In an attempt to bridge the gap in information pertaining to local African American heritage, the Shawnee National Forest sponsored a conservation education day camp, entitled Camp "I, too, am America." The camp was made possible through a $15,000 grant from the Washington Office of the Forest Service.

The Forest Service's partner, the University of Illinois Extension staff and other interested citizens were concerned that local youth lacked a sense of civic pride about the communities in which they lived. Local history is not emphasized or taught in the school systems and the region as a whole is characterized by a 28% illiteracy rate. As a result, the area's young people do not have an appreciation of the rich historical legacy of what has become known "Egypt." Many of the area's youth wrongly come to the conclusion that formal education is a waste, while the same or others attempt to gain economic independence elsewhere. The small towns and villages of southernmost Illinois suffer from chronic poverty and have few economic or educational resources to call upon. Many of these communities are characterized by high ratios of African American and/or other minority youth. It was thought that participating in Camp "I, too, am America" would instill in the area's youth pride in their home communities families, while enhancing their self esteem.

I entitled the paper "archaeological griots" because the name appeared to fit our project goals and objectives. As archaeologists we were recovering bits and pieces of people's lives and putting it together in order to write a history of Miller Grove. Although primary documents about African Americans exist, they often consist of public documents or are otherwise written by others about African Americans. Of real concern to the study of African American history is the tendency for African Americans to traditionally acknowledge and hand down their own history orally rather than in writing or in photographs. This is a very ancient tradition, dating back to at least the 14th century, and perhaps, even antedating the time of Christ (Hale 1999). Traditionally, griots, and female practitioners, or griottes, maintained the oral history of their groups. They acted as genealogists, historians, spokespersons, diplomat, musician, teacher, warrior, praise singer, master of ceremonies and advisor. Interestingly enough, griots and griottes are unique to Africa.

But griots are not just historical or cultural curiosities. hey fulfill a real need within African society. Griots ". . . serve as the social glue in society. By their efforts, they inspire people, mediate conflicts, and facilitate important life ceremonies, they seem to operate as secular guides to human behavior and as social arbiters. At events related to birth, initiation, marriage, family, history, sports, music, and government, griots and griottes are there to witness the occasion, to enliven it, to facilitate it, and to convey what happened to others. No other profession in any other part of the world is charged with such wide-ranging involvement in the lives of the people" (Hale 1999).

This oral tradition, which was handed down from generation to generation, preserved not only the names of ancestors, but also heroic or and often unique episodes in local and regional history. However, when one generation, or a significant portion of a generation, as with Alex Haley's mother, does not want to participate in this tradition, it results in a failure and a break in continuity. Today, African American families and communities have gotten away from the oral traditions involved in family history. When the elders in the community today talk of the old days and relay stories of ancestors, younger people often don't care to listen (Burroughs 2001:75). In many instances, genealogical studies are helping to recover these forgotten stories.

Other times, history has been lost because, like Alex Haley's mother, many preferred not to remember it. Many have found it, and continue to find it a shameful and degrading. They are victimized by the memory.

Another way history was lost or unrecorded was through secrecy, as with the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad was built upon a foundation of secrecy. In addition, involvement in the Underground Railroad could be dangerous and free African American participants risked the most. Retaliation might include tar and feathering, jail or perhaps being sold into slavery. Although in many areas, the Underground Railroad was well documented through Wilbur Siebert's excellent history (1898). In other places, like southern Illinois, "The geographical position of the most southern portions of Illinois and Indiana determined the character of the population settling there, and thus rendered underground enterprises in those regions more than ordinarily dangerous" (Drew 2004:115). In southern Illinois small enclaves of freed men and women worked to aid fugitive slaves on their journey north, their involvement is not documented at all, even though we know from fugitive slave narratives that escaping slaves passed through the area. In 1856 Benjamin Drew published a collection of autobiographies of fugitive slaves who had successfully escaped to Canada (Drew 2004). Four of those narratives involved escaping through southern Illinois (William Hall, Mr. and Mrs. John Little and Aaron Sidles) (Drew 2004: 139-163; 189-191; and 220-224).

Archaeological studies are also recovering lost histories. Scholars have begun to expand the definition of the documentary record by turning to such mediums as quilts, artwork, folk culture, and oral histories as data sources to augment African American history. However, the majority of history and historical information continues to be derived mostly from written sources. The paucity of records by and about African Americans results in a gap in knowledge. This is why the archaeological record of African American sites like Miller Grove is crucial. The archaeological record has long been used to investigate the lifeways and behavior of "invisible" people, or "those of little note (Scott 1994). "Those of little note" were considered of little importance, not worthy of notice by the dominant social, political, political, and economic groups in societies past (Scott 1994:3). They were not worth writing about, and therefore are not as visible to in the written records we rely upon. Because they are not prominent in the historical record, historical archaeologists have traditionally spent little effort in reconstructing their lifeways. More recently the archaeological record has already contributed to examining variation in African American lifeways under slavery and to addressing questions regarding acculturation, participation in a larger capitalistic society, economic status, spatial organization, diet, and material culture.

The archaeological record is the static material remains of a once functioning sociocultural system. In other words, what used to be the vibrant and alive community of Miller Grove in the mid-nineteenth century is now the archaeological record. Through the summer Camp "I, too, am America" local day-campers have the opportunity to learn about African-American heritage in southern Illinois through archaeology and hands-on history lessons. Topics that were addressed during the day camp included local history, archaeology, the Underground Railroad, food and nutrition at Miller Grove and on the Underground Railroad, the lives of people during the nineteenth century and the preservation of our heritage. Forest Service archaeologists, historic preservation specialists and history students employed by the Forest Service, were joined by fourteen other adult volunteers that included teachers, school principals, agency leaders, parents and grandparents, and a number of camp counselors from the summer recreation and education programs.

In 2003 campers had the opportunity to paddle a 36-foot long Montreal canoe. This is the kind of vessel used by French voyageurs. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries these canoes were used on most of the inland waterways. The Algonquin-style birch bark canoe in regular use during that time would transport more than three tons of goods and people as far as eighty kilometer (50 miles) each day. The campers signed a contract with Jean Baptiste LaMontagne, an agent of the Compagnie de Indies that obligated them to work for the fur trading company for three years for the sum of 350 livres for each year, two blankets, two shirts, a tump line and a pair of heavy duty boot moccasins. These are the same kind of canoes that were used by Lewis and Clark as they traveled up the Missouri River to winter at Fort Mandan.

The campers also learned about Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery through hands-on activities. They got to write a message in a leather journal with a feather quill pen and ink just like William Clark kept. It was definitely messy, but it was also fun. They got to handle the glass beads and brass trade axes that were given to the Native Americans, the leather "possible" bags that the Corps of Discovery members carried their personal possessions in and the powder horn similar to ones used by the Corps with their flintlock rifles. They even got to sit upon a bison skin with the fur still on. They also had the opportunity to learn about Native American cultures that Lewis and Clark encountered along the way.

They also heard about William Clark's slave, York. Clark's life-long slave companion, York and William, were roughly the same age. He had been bequeathed to William by his father, John Clark, in a will dated July 24, 1799. In 1803, the two lived together in Clarksville, Indiana Territory, opposite Louisville with Clark's brother George Rogers Clark. On October 29, York and Clark, who would become co-commander of the expedition, joined Lewis and the other members of the Corps when they stepped aboard the Corps' keelboat and set off on a journey into history. During the expedition the other members of the Corps of Discovery treated York like a corps member and not like a slave, but when the expedition arrived back in St. Louis, York was back to being Clark's slave. During the western expedition, according Clark: "[T]o the Indians, every article about us appeared to excite astonishment in ther minds; the appearance of the men, their arms, the canoes, our manner of working them. the black man york and the sagacity of my dog were equally objects of admiration."

However, the majority of the summer was spent in working at Miller Grove. An ideal group of twelve students, including adults with disabilities, visit the site, receive and overview and orientation, and then divide up into work groups. Some preferred screening, while others could not wait to begin digging. Trowels were the main tool used in the excavations. Even the most mundane artifact, such as barrel hoops and rough sandstone, are a treasure to the young archaeologists. In the afternoon, the campers hiked to Sand Cave, an awesome cathedral of a rock shelter located nearby that according to local legend was used as a hiding place for escaping slaves. While exploring the nooks and crannies of the rock shelter they listen to more tales of the Underground Railroad.

After participating in the archaeological experiences at Miller Grove, and hiking to Sand Cave, 90% of the participants reported that they had a better Understanding of the Underground Railroad; 98% reported that they had a better understanding of archaeology; 92% reported having a better understanding of nineteenth century lifeways; and 98% again reported having developed more pride and appreciation of their heritage and community! In addition, several students reported that they would utilize this new information while at school, perhaps in writing reports on black history, while others noted that they would help other understand more about archaeology. Other comments included that the experience has encouraged them to learn more about the old days, and that the opportunity to work on the excavations would be an aid to them when they took archaeology in college. Among the most important lessons learned at Camp "I, too, am America" were learning how people lived during the nineteenth century, how important it was to have your freedom, and that things can change, if you put your mind to it. According to Paul McNight, Education Coordinator for the University of Illinois Extension, one "unexpected result form the program was that several students are considering careers in archaeology. Most likely they never would have been exposed to the field if not for this event."

The summer ended with traditional griot storytelling and singing.

References Cited

Burroughs, Tony
2001    Black Roots: A Beginners Guide to Tracing the African American Family Tree. Fireside Publishers, Chicago.

Drew, Benjamin
2004    Refugees From Slavery: Autobiographies of Fugitive Slaves in Canada. Dover Publications, New York.

Hale, Thomas
1999    Griots and Griottes. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN.

Scott, Elizabeth
1994    Those of Little Note: Gender, Race and Class in Historical Archaeology. University of Arizona Press, Phoenix.

Siebert, Wilbur
1968 [1898]    The Underground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom. Arno Press, New York.

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Local Identity, National Memory, and Heritage Tourism:
Creating a Sense of Place with Archaeology

By Paul A. Shackel
University of Maryland

With the emerging field of heritage tourism, there is a continued need for research devoted to understanding the cultural characteristics of heritage, its importance in contemporary society, and its uses. Many communities struggle with their sense of place in an increasingly globalized world. Recovery, interpretation, and the celebration of the past are important for sustaining local identity and a sense of place. Local history can be compromised by the drive to create alternative pasts in order to cater to heritage tourism. Local communities' involvement is necessary with the development of heritage tourism activities, including having a say in the way their past is presented to the outside world. This form of inclusiveness needs a continuous dialogue between the various stakeholders as different ideas about the past can make the process contentious (Derry and Malloy 2003; Dongoske et al. 2000; Little 2002; Shackel and Chambers 2004; Swidler et al. 1997; Watkins 2001).

The heritage of peripheral groups is not always part of the story told of our national heritage. When looking at archaeological heritage, we not only need to interpret the dominant culture, but we also need to understand that racism, ethnocentrism, religious-ism, linguistic-ism, age-ism, able-ism, class-ism, sex-ism, and heterosexual-ism are all part of our past. I propose several elements that will help make archaeological heritage tourism a more inclusive endeavor at multi-ethnic sites. These are:

  • Critically analyze and expose racism in the past, and present and dismantle the structures of oppression where we can. We need to recognize race and provide a historical perspective of racism when telling the story.

  • Explore diversity in the past, and promote it in the present. We cannot dismantle racism if only like-minded people are participating in the project.

  • Build a multicultural organization. We need to explore and identify the dividing walls in the past and in the present. For us, the organization is the field of American Archaeology, and we hope that our efforts will help build diversity. The story is not complete without a variety of perspectives.

  • Create a color-conscious past rather than a color-blind past. By recognizing cultural and ethnic differences, we can provide a richer perspective of the past and the future.

By opening up a project to traditionally muted viewpoints, the relationship of archaeology to heritage tourism has made the discipline much more complicated. Archaeologists must navigate between their interests as scholars and professionals and the interests of many other stakeholders. It becomes even more difficult when archaeologists find that they must deal with several descent groups, each of which may have their own memories about the place. My recent work with a project in New Philadelphia, Illinois provides an example of some of the benefits and pitfalls while working with many stakeholders that support different views of the past. While all agree on the importance of the site, discussions about uses of the site for heritage tourism have sometimes become tense.

The Struggle in Heritage Tourism

New Philadelphia is the earliest-known town that was founded and platted by an African American. The site is located about 25 miles west of the Mississippi River and developed as a small multiracial rural community beginning in 1836. In 1869, the railroad avoided the town by about a mile and the town soon began its decline. In 1885, some of the town was vacated and reverted to agricultural lands. A small multiracial community existed in the town until the 1920s (Figure 1). Today, nothing exists of the town except for a few foundations in a planted field and abundant memories. In 2002, Vibert White, then chair of African American Studies at the University of Illinois-Springfield (UI-S), invited Terry Martin of the Illinois State Museum (ISM) and me to help study the history of the place. This work moved forward with an archaeological survey (Gwaltney 2004) with financial support from UI-S and the New Philadelphia Association (NPA), a local nonprofit group established to celebrate the founding of the town. After two years of archaeological, historical, and oral history research, we applied for and were awarded a three-year NSF-REU grant. One of our goals was to recruit a diverse student body to work on the project so we could train them in scientific archaeological techniques. This teaching and learning experience was a tremendous success because of the support from the above-mentioned groups and the addition of Christopher Fennell of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).

New Philadelphia schoolhouse

Figure 1: A 1920s class in front of the one-room schoolhouse at New Philadelphia. The photograph is courtesy of the Pike County Historical Society.

While we have not yet convinced the Archaeological Conservancy that the place is important and in need of their efforts for preservation, we hope that by raising the town's profile in the public consciousness, we can convince other organizations that it is worthy of protection. After one field season, we can now begin to make the archaeology part of the New Philadelphia story (; follow the links to New Philadelphia), contributing to the town's social and landscape histories. With our assistance, the community has taken the lead in nominating the site to the National Register of Historic Places because it is archaeologically significant. The former town has the potential to be an archaeological preserve with innovative forms of site interpretation.

While we are involved in the early stages to preserve New Philadelphia and make it part of our national memory, the various stakeholders have different ideas on how to interpret the place to outsiders. The NPA mostly consists of local community members, although descendant members are represented, and refers to the place as a multiracial community where everyone lived together peacefully. While we do not have evidence of overt violence during the town's period of significance (1836-1885), it is difficult to ignore the larger context of the condition of African Americans in the post-Civil War era. There are newspaper and oral accounts of KKK disturbances in the 1920s that chased black workers from a nearby road construction project. One informant told us that a nearby town was a "sundowner town," a place where African Americans were not welcome after sunset. Other members of the community prefer to only tell the story and honor the African American individual who founded the town. At the same time, a descendant and member of the NPA is quite clear about the stories of prejudice that his family endured while living in the town (; follow the links to New Philadelphia and oral histories).

The NPA is divided about reconstructing all or part of the town, while others do not believe it would be appropriate to "reconstruct" a village. While many of the descendants are anxious to preserve and protect this land for various reasons, one voice in the descendant community is objecting to the goals of the NPA because of fears that the place will become a tourist attraction. The descendant fears that any reconstruction by the NPA at or near the site would be a money-making venture that would be exploiting the founder's memory. The desires of the local and descendant communities for developing a heritage tourism site are truly varied.

Can a multivocal past be part of the heritage of New Philadelphia? Many times, a dominant group will allow alternative voices -- as long as they are not too radical. New Philadelphia is about the struggle over who controls the meaning of the place, and the goal of the archaeology team is to try to create a redistribution of power to allow for a real world multivocality. Access and inclusion are the archaeology team's and NPA's social responsibility in this process, and it is important that all communities be invited to participate in the discussion. Multivocality should not be seen as a free-for-all. Once the site is preserved, choices will be made as to which histories are represented. We are determined that the archaeologists' view of inclusiveness and time depth is part of the story. Discussions of race, diversity, and creating a color-conscious past are all important to the heritage of the place. It is important to be careful not to create a past that excludes the "other."

Some Goals for Archaeology and Heritage Tourism

Preserving heritage is more than just freezing a moment in time. Heritage is an expression of what people think is important. Places on the landscape that are celebrated by heritage tourism mark who we are as a community and a nation. Places that are commemorated and become part of the heritage tourism industry may become part of a naturalized landscape. That is, they become reified and part of the national public memory. Therefore, our position as anthropologists is to take all voices into consideration, consult with the various stakeholders to be as inclusive as possible, and suggest avoiding reconstruction since we cannot accurately recreate the past built landscape. Rather, we want to suggest to the community that the archaeological information will contribute to a social history of the place. Negotiation with all of the communities involved needs to be continuous to ensure that all concerns are taken into consideration.

Academic institutions need to become more aware of the need for broader training to better manage archaeological resources in a heritage tourism context. Heritage tourism can have a tremendous impact on a community's history and economy. Discussion of heritage must deal with issues of sustainability in order to determine how best to utilize the resource for the enjoyment of future generations. Tourism can also change the local meaning of the place, as some histories are seen as having a broader appeal while other histories may be subverted. Community support and involvement in how the past is presented, as well as understanding the economic impact of the tourism industry, is necessary for any heritage tourism project. It is critical that this work be done in a sustainable manner that benefits the community while at the same time enhancing cross-cultural understanding.

Archaeologists involved in heritage tourism have found a need to rely on a variety of other anthropological skills while becoming immersed in the fastest-growing sector of the tourism industry. Archaeologists must work as collaborators and participants while working with communities and their heritage and tourism resources. Universities need to understand that training in an interdisciplinary approach is necessary to help create and develop sustainable heritage tourism. We now need training in skills like the determination of tourism carrying capacity, museum studies, environmental mediation, hospitality administration planning and project development, and the marketing of heritage resources (Chambers 2004; Smith et al. 2004).

When I looked at a recent AAA Guide and reviewed some of the new dissertation titles, I noticed that many of the top-ranked schools in the U.S. had a large proportion of students writing dissertations on topics common 20 years ago. Many dissertations are about the distribution of artifacts, subsistence and economy, exchange and distribution, production and exchange, settlement patterns, and the rise of complex societies. It is obvious that we are not training our students in applied topics, and issues like heritage tourism will be learned on the job. Many of the dissertations seem to lack any examination of disenfranchised groups and agents of change. Acknowledging a multivocal past is necessary if newly trained Ph.D.s are to work successfully in heritage areas with the many stakeholders involved in creating interpretations of the past. It is a multicultural awareness of the present and the past that can make archaeology part of a socially relevant dialogue important to the development of heritage tourism.

References Cited

Hamby, Theresa M. and J. W. Joseph, editors
2004    A New Look at the Old City: Archaeological Excavations of the Charleston County Judicial Center Site (38CH1708), Charleston, South Carolina. New South Associates, Stone Mountain.

Chambers, Erve
2004    Epilogue: Archaeology, Heritage, and Public Endeavor. In Places in Mind: Public Archaeology as Applied Anthropology, edited by P. A. Shackel and E. Chambers, pp. 193-208. Routledge Press, New York.

Derry, Linda, and Maureen Malloy
2003    Archaeologists and Local Communities: Partners in Exploring the Past. Society for American Archaeology, Washington, D.C.

Dongoske, Kurt E., Mark Aldenderfer, and Karen Doehner
2000    Working Together: Native Americans and Archaeologists. Society for American Archaeology, Washington, D.C.

Gwaltney, Thomas
2004    New Philadelphia Project Pedestrian Survey: Final Report and Cataloging. Phase I Archaeology at the Historic Town of New Philadelphia, Illinois. AsGIS Consultants, Bethesda, MD.

Little, Barbara J.
2002    Public Benefits of Archaeology. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.

Shackel, Paul A., and Erve J. Chambers
2004    Places in Mind: Public Archeology as Applied Anthropology. Routledge Press, New York.

Smith, George, Donald G. Jones, and Thomas R. Wheaton, Jr.
2004    Workshop Report: Working Together: Archaeology in Global Perspective. International Journal of Heritage Studies 10(3): 321-327.

Swidler, Nina, Kurt Dongoske, Roger Anyon, and Alan Downer
1997    Native Americans and Archaeologists: Stepping Stones to Common Ground. AltaMira Press, Walnut Creek, California.

Watkins, Joe
2001    Indigenous Archaeology: American Indian Values and Scientific Practice. AltaMira Press, Walnut Creek, California.

Paul A. Shackel is Director of the Center for Heritage Resource Studies at University of Maryland. This article was published in the May 2005 edition of the SAA Archaeological Record, Vol. 5, No. 3, pp. 33-35, and is reprinted here with permission from the author and the Society for American Archaeology.

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The Quarterpath Road Site, an Antebellum Quarter
and Tenant Residence near Williamsburg, Virginia

By Ywone Edwards-Ingram
Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

The Department of Archaeological Research of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is studying the remains of an antebellum quarter and tenant house site near Williamsburg, Virginia. During the summer of 2004, Jason Boroughs, a doctoral student at the College William and Mary, directed a full-scale excavation of this site, with the help of the joint CWF/College of William and Mary field school. Excavations have revealed the remains of a 15ft x 19ft dwelling with a substantial brick hearth as well as the residual evidence, in the form of a 6.5 ft square cellar, of another. The structures were bounded by a fence line enclosing a common space between. Structure 1, erected circa 1840-1850, represents a hybrid building tradition between earthfast and pier construction. It was occupied until its incineration circa 1905. Structure 2 was most likely of log construction, with ground laid sills eradicated by the decades of plowing that accompanied the agricultural use of the property after its abandonment. Also recovered were a variety of domestic artifacts including buttons, coins, glass fragments (predominately representing medicinal bottles), and imported and domestic ceramic sherds. Although the site had been extensively plow damaged, careful and extensive sampling of the plowzone, combined with thorough cross-mending across the entire site, has resulted in a large and diverse assemblage of cultural material.

excavations at Quarterpath Road site

Field school students excavating near a brick chimney foundation at the Quarterpath Road site.

The occupants of the site appear to have been enslaved field workers who continued to live there after emancipation. They were likely engaged in agricultural tasks close to the quarter or at other jobs in Williamsburg itself. It is possible that different groups of African Americans resided at the site over time. The artifacts and the architectural evidence indicate that the site was occupied from the 1840s or 1850s until the incineration of one of the dwellings circa 1905.

ceramics from Quarterpath Road site

Fragments are from a nineteenth-century, yellow ware vessel with Bennington-type glaze and "Rebecca-at-the-Well" ornamentation. Photograph by Grace Turner.

The Quarterpath Road site promises more information about the flow of commercial goods in Williamsburg in the early nineteenth century, especially in the context of a marginal household residing on the fringe of this urban center. A better understanding of the material lives of this segment of the population will come from the studies of Boroughs and those of Grace Turner, also a doctoral student in anthropology at the College. These students, working in collaboration with Ywone Edwards-Ingram, the Department's coordinator of African-American Archaeology, are now interpreting a variety of domestic artifacts from the site. Preliminary results of this work were presented at the 2005 meeting of the Council for Northeastern Historical Archaeology in Trenton, New Jersey. The site is significant for it represents a period of time that has been largely overlooked by archaeological investigations in the lower Chesapeake region. It is the only example of an emancipation-era field quarter/tenant residence excavated by the Foundation.

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Updated Analysis of Home Farm Quarter Data at Monticello, Virginia

By Sara Bon-Harper
Monticello Department of Archaeology

The 2005 Monticello-University of Virginia Archaeological Field School continued excavation on two dwellings of enslaved field hands at Site 8, located a half mile east of the Monticello mansion and occupied in the late eighteenth century. The most unexpected discovery of the season was that a storage feature at one of the houses was a brick-lined cellar.

The cellar belongs to House 2, one of three houses discovered on Site 8, all of which have at least one storage feature. The other features are smaller, unlined sub-floor pits. Among these, the brick-lined cellar stands out in the significant investment of resources -- effort and materials -- it required. Bricks, in this case drawn from multiple building projects on the plantation, would have been a scarce commodity. Their use in the cellar contrasts with the smaller sub-floor pits whose construction was much simpler and did not require hard-to-get supplies. A layer of sand covering the cellar's floor, indicating that a primary use of the feature was for food storage, particularly the storage of root crops. The cellar may have been built by a household that hoped to use it for the long term, or for enough food to make it worthy of the investment. This would imply stability in slaves' housing, almost certainly in families during the later part of site occupation, and a significant production of root crops for winter storage.

Site 8 map
Excavation areas around Houses 1, 2, and 3 showing Features 1-8. Dot-dash lines denote the limits of excavation, both of block excavation areas around houses and the five-by-five foot excavation units used to sample the site. Feature 6 is the brick-lined cellar.

The discovery of the three known houses on Site 8 is a result of an extensive sampling of the plowzone across the site and the further testing of areas with high artifact density. Analysis of the artifact scatters over the three dwellings indicate that House 1 is the earliest of the three, and Houses 2 and 3 are slightly later (for more about that analysis see

Site 8 map
Excavation of brick-lined cellar.

Site 8 provides an opportunity to examine the areas around three houses. Variation in the artifact scatter across the site suggests that the use of exterior domestic space was different among the three houses. These data reveal much less debris in the area around House 1, while the spaces around Houses 2 and 3 contained more refuse (for illustration of the artifact densities, see index.html). Current research on the assemblage is examining the makeup of the artifact scatters to determine whether this is a result of an occupation at House 1 that was of shorter duration or lesser intensity, or whether House 1’s yard was one of the maintained spaces on the site. The latter would indicate sweeping or clearing of trash from the area, likely to keep it free for domestic activities such as food processing, tool maintenance, raising poultry and small livestock, and social activities.

Site 8 map
Field school students during excavation.

For more about the annual Monticello-University of Virginia Archaeological Field School, see

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Dissertation Abstract:
Health, History, And Sugar:
A Bioarchaeological Study of Enslaved Africans
from Newton Plantation, Barbados, West Indies

By Kristina A. Shuler

Ph.D. Dissertation, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, September 2005.


Health and quality of life is assessed through the skeletal remains of 49 enslaved sugar laborers at Newton Plantation (excavated 1997-1998). Low life expectancy supports previous findings and more closely approximates historical demography than previous studies. Skeletal age and sex structures are skewed, with undernumeration of infants and children and more males than reported historically. Age at death is lower than previously reported for other Diaspora skeletal series, following historical expectations.

Skeletal evidence (as previously reported) attests to dietary inadequacy and a stressed population. High rates of growth arrest, hypercementosis, and caries suggest substandard, high simple-carbohydrate diet, with episodic starvation, but low rates of anemia and rickets support adequacy of some minerals and vitamins. Previously unreported stature estimates support skeletally and historically-documented low heights for Caribbean slaves in comparison with North American, but low mean age at death suggests individuals were dying younger, especially women. Associations by economy within the Caribbean were far less clear, due to few comparative samples. The physical effects of sugar cultivation were ubiquitous. Adult skeletal patterns conformed to historical accounts of the gang labor, but results in women, and even children, were surprising. Trauma was unexpected, affecting only women. Like other Diaspora skeletal series, Newton Plantation data suggest poorly nourished unhealthy individuals. Low age at death, absence of severe infection, with high rates of generalized stress, and low life expectancy support archival records of rampant acute epidemics and malnourishment in the West Indian enslaved. High rates of localized chronic infections attest to the physical dangers associated with sugar cultivation, especially to the lower body. Rare genetic defects (e.g., Kleippel-Feil Syndrome and supernumerary dentition) may suggest gene drift and bottleneck effects of the Middle Passage and isolated island and plantation contexts, but more data are needed to assess these potential familial relations within the cemetery. Future collaborative efforts may provide fuller understandings of the social relations and identity for enslaved Africans at this plantation.

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Accessing Cultural Resource Management Reports
on African-American Heritage Sites

By Christopher Fennell


In the September, 2005, issue of this Newsletter, I presented a list of recent Ph.D. dissertations and Masters theses on the subjects of African diaspora archaeology, historic-period African archaeology, and related history studies. In addition to such academic resources, many archaeological sites related to aspects of African heritage in the United States have been investigated by Cultural Resource Management (CRM) firms, some of which are commercial entities and some of which are affiliated with universities. These CRM firms typically submit reports of their findings to the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), or an equivalent State or federal agency, in the area in which the research and excavations were conducted. In turn, some (but not all) SHPO offices and federal agencies have supplied lists of these reports to the National Park Service (NPS) for inclusion in a searchable database called the National Archaeological Database (NADB). To obtain the most complete list of such reports, one would also need to contact all of the SHPO offices and all of the CRM organizations.

I hope to make information on such reports related to African-American archaeology more accessible for researchers -- particularly academic researchers who often find this "gray literature" inaccessible -- by creating consolidated bibliographies. As part of such efforts, I have composed a web page that sets forth bibliographic lists that were compiled by conducting "keyword" searches in October 2005 using the Reports Module of the NADB, which was last updated in August 2004. This web page lists 529 reports that each relate in some way to the subject of African-American heritage. This online bibliography is available at:

I have also contacted numerous members of the CRM community to request that they send me lists of reports by their firms that they know were addressed to subjects of African-American heritage. An initial bibliography of report listings sent to me by some of those CRM organizations is available at: At a later stage, I will arrange to have these working bibliographies consolidated to create one list of relevant reports.

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Frederick Douglass Prize Awarded

Yale University's Gilder Lehrman Center
for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition

Press Release by Gilder Lehrman Center;

Dubois book cover

New Haven, Conn. -- A major study of the trans-cultural struggle over slavery and citizenship in the revolutionary French Caribbean is the winner of the Seventh Annual Frederick Douglass Book Prize, it was recently announced by Yale University's Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition.

Laurent Dubois, associate professor at Michigan State University, will be awarded the prize for his book A Colony of Citizens: Revolution and Slave Emancipation in the French Caribbean, 1787-1804 (Published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture by the University of North Carolina Press). Focusing on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, Dubois explores the slave revolts there that brought about the 1794 abolition of slavery. His historical account sheds new light on the contradictory ways this emancipation developed, leading to its ultimate reversal in the early 19th century. On a broader scale, he examines how slaves-turned-citizens both experienced and shaped the transformations of the age.

The $25,000 annual award for the year's best non-fiction book on slavery, resistance and/or abolition, is the most generous history prize in the field, and the most respected and coveted of the major awards for the study of the black experience. The prize will be awarded at a dinner at the Yale Club of New York on February 23, 2006, as the capstone of Black History Month

David W. Blight, director of the Gilder Lehrman Center, commented: "Laurent Dubois's Colony of Citizens is a complex, fascinating story of slave resistance in the Caribbean. The book is deeply researched in French archival sources, in ethnographical and anthropological sources and even in maps and imaginative fiction. With a focus on how the Haitian Revolution spread to Guadaloupe, Dubois transforms a seemingly local story into a much larger one -- about how the French Revolution itself was in part rooted in the slave systems of the West Indies. Dubois convincingly shows that slaves and free persons of color interpreted and converted republicanism to their own ends -- the claim of citizenship in the French empire -- only to have their freedom crushed again in re-enslavement."

Commented John David Smith, the Charles H. Stone Distinguished Professor of American History at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and chair of the Frederick Douglass Prize jury: "Not since C.L.R. James in his The Black Jacobins (1938), has a scholar examined the broad nexus of revolution, slavery and emancipation as creatively and as powerfully as Dubois. A Colony of Citizens is a decidedly original, path-breaking and incredibly well-researched work that positions slavery, emancipation, re-enslavement and then eventual re-emancipation in Guadeloupe within an international framework and suggests the complex fruits of emancipation in the French Caribbean and the Atlantic World."

"This gracefully written, carefully argued, and well-documented book has important implications that transcend the time period Dubois examines and the specific events he analyzes." Smith added.

Four other books were singled out as finalists: The Price of Liberty: African Americans and the Making of Liberia, by Claude A. Clegg III (University of North Carolina Press), Israel on the Appomattox: A Southern Experiment in Black Freedom from the 1790s Through the Civil War, by Melvin Patrick Ely (Knopf Publishers), Ouidah: The Social History of a West African Slaving ‘Port' 1727-1892, by Robin Law (Ohio University Press) and The Sounds of Slavery: Discovering African American History through Songs, Sermons and Speech, by Shane White and Graham White (Beacon Press).

This year's winning book was selected from a field of nearly 70 entries by a jury of scholars that included Colin Palmer (Princeton University) and Deborah White (Rutgers University) in addition to Smith.

The Frederick Douglass Prize was established in 1999 to stimulate scholarship in the field by honoring outstanding accomplishments. Previous winners were Ira Berlin and Philip D. Morgan in 1999; David Eltis, 2000; David Blight, 2001; Robert Harms and John Stauffer, 2002; James F. Brooks and Seymour Drescher, 2003; and Jean Fagan Yellin, 2004.

The award is named for Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), the onetime slave who escaped bondage to emerge as one of the great American abolitionists, reformers, writers and orators of the 19th century.

The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition, a part of the Yale Center for International and Area Studies, was launched at Yale in November 1998 through a generous donation by philanthropists Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Its mission is to promote the study of all aspects of slavery, in particular the Atlantic slave system, including African and African-American resistance to enslavement, abolitionist movements and the ways in which chattel slavery finally became outlawed.

In addition to encouraging the highest standards of new scholarship, the GLC is dedicated to the dissemination of knowledge through publications, conferences, educational outreach and other activities.

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Forgotten Mission of Liberation:
Work Uncovers Site Where Raid Freed 700 Slaves

By Wayne Washington

October 16, 2005

Article posted online by the at:
Copyright 2005 of South Carolina.

In 1863, the Civil War came to the Combahee River in the form of abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

Rural Beaufort County -- Archeologists have unearthed artifacts they believe pinpoint the location of a Combahee River ferry crossing used in a Civil War raid led by legendary abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

The 1863 Union army raid, which freed more than 700 slaves from plantations in Colleton and Beaufort counties, is widely considered the first in U.S. history to be led by a woman. It cemented Tubman's legend as a daring and courageous emancipator, and it bolstered Union forces in the Palmetto State.

The archeologists were hired by the state Department of Transportation to probe the area before U.S. 17 is widened. In the process, they unearthed artifacts they believe came from a house or tavern near the ferry crossing where Tubman and black Union soldiers surprised local plantation owners.

A brief study conducted in 1989 revealed Confederate earthworks and an old African-American cemetery in the low-lying, undeveloped area. But when plans to widen the highway were shelved, no follow-up surveys were taken.

This year, with plans to widen the highway back on track, DOT and the private company have reviewed centuries-old maps, recovered artifacts, and conducted underwater and soil tests that have shown the area to be of great historical significance. [read more >>>].

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Medieval African Texts Take Spotlight:
30,000 Documents Hailed as Proof of African Scholarship

September 30, 2005

Article posted online by the
Reuters at:
Copyright 2005 Reuters.

Johannesburg, South Africa -- A collection of medieval manuscripts from Timbuktu that academics hail as proof of an African scholarly tradition go on public show on the continent for the first time on Friday.

Timbuktu in Mali, West Africa, has been trumpeted as the epicenter of Africa's intellectual heritage, and the discovery of 30,000 lost texts has challenged the stereotype of Africa as a continent with no written history. [read more >>>].

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New Exhibit:
Finding Priscilla's Children:
The Roots and Branches of Slavery

New York Historical Society

Press Release by New York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024; Posted on H-Africa, H-Net Discussion Group (November 2005).

Priscilla's children poster

NEW YORK. New York City's first museum, the New-York Historical Society (N-YHS) presents Finding Priscilla's Children: The Roots and Branches of Slavery, an exhibition on the poignant story of Priscilla, a 10-year old African girl kidnapped into slavery in 1756, whose exile began in Sierra Leone and ended in Charleston, South Carolina. Using a rare and unbroken document trail that began 249 years ago, scholars have traced Priscilla's origin in Africa, her exile on the middle passage, and her life in bondage in America, allowing an intimate portrait of an enslaved person's life to emerge from the pages of history. Scholars have used this document trail to identify one of Priscilla's modern descendants, an African American woman still living in South Carolina today, who recently made an extraordinary "homecoming" journey back to Sierra Leone.

"Finding Priscilla's Children" opens on November 8, and will be on view through March 5, 2006, at the New-York Historical Society, located at Central Park West and 77th Street, Dr. Louise Mirrer, N-YHS President announced today. "The collections of the New-York Historical Society hold the records of the very slave ship that took Priscilla and were key in helping to trace this family's history," said Mirrer. "This exhibition tells a story that stands for the many lost family histories we will never know."

Very few African Americans can trace their family history for 250 years, and even fewer can identify a specific ancestor from Africa, yet the extraordinary document trail for Priscilla and her descendants enables Mrs. Thomalind Martin Polite of Charleston, Priscilla's 7th generation descendant, to reclaim her heritage. Told for the first time as a museum exhibit, this story begins when Mrs. Polite's ancestor, Priscilla, was purchased by Caleb Godfrey, captain of the slave ship Hare owned by Samuel and William Vernon, wealthy merchants of Newport, Rhode Island. The Hare's voyage to South Carolina is one of the best documented in the history of the Atlantic slave trade with the Society's collections holding the most complete record of this ship.

When the Hare landed in South Carolina, Henry Laurens, one of the richest planters and slave dealers in Charleston and later an American patriot leader during the Revolutionary War, handled the sale of slaves. According to Laurens' records of the sale -- also in the N- YHS collections -- Elias Ball, a wealthy rice planter, purchased Priscilla and three other children from the Hare. South Carolina's staple crop at that period was rice, and Carolina planters were willing to pay high prices for Africans brought directly from the rice- growing region of West Africa, including Sierra Leone. Priscilla lived on Ball family plantations for the rest of her life, bearing 10 children in slavery, and dying in 1811 at about 65 years of age.

Edward Ball, author of the award-winning book Slaves in the Family and a direct descendent of Elias Ball, mined his ancestors' unusually detailed plantation records in the 1990s while researching his book and found enough information to link Priscilla to her modern descendants in South Carolina.

Recently, Joseph Opala, curator of "Finding Priscilla's Children" and a historian at James Madison University in Virginia, found the records of the Hare at the New-York Historical Society that link Priscilla directly to Sierra Leone as well as Henry Laurens' accounts of the sale of the Hare's slaves in Charleston with a specific mention of Elias Ball's purchase of 3 boys and 2 girls for £460.

Thomalind Polite, a 31-year-old children's speech therapist from Charleston, followed the document trail uncovered by Ball and Opala back to her roots in West Africa. In May, 2005 Mrs. Polite spent a week in Sierra Leone at the invitation of that country's government. Sierra Leoneans believed she was bringing Priscilla's spirit back with her, so they called her visit "Priscilla's Homecoming." Mrs. Polite was received by Sierra Leone's president and other top national leaders. She watched scores of musicians and dancers perform in her honor, and was given an African name in a touching sea-side ceremony. She visited the ruins of Bunce Island, the British slave castle where the Hare stopped and may have purchased some of its slaves. And Sierra Leone's most popular music group composed a song in Mrs. Polite's honor with the words: "Rush with the message, go tell it to the people, open the gates, Priscilla's coming home!"

Professor Opala accompanied Mrs. Polite on her journey to Sierra Leone, and worked with a documentary film crew from Charleston headed by Jacque Metz. Although he had witnessed two previous "Gullah homecomings" to Sierra Leone, Opala says this one was different. "The earlier homecomings were also big national events," he said, "and Sierra Leoneans were deeply moved to meet African Americans whose ancestors were taken away from their country centuries ago. But this time, they knew the name of a specific ancestor, and so they talked directly to Priscilla herself, looking at Thomalind, but speaking to the spirit of the child they believed she brought with her. One elderly man poured his heart out, telling the ancestral spirit what her countrymen endured during Sierra Leone's bitter civil war. Priscilla's Homecoming was powerfully emotional. I doubt that any reunion quite this specific will ever take place again for an African American whose ancestors were taken away during the slave trade."

"Finding Priscilla's Children" begins with an imaginary portrait of Priscilla painted by African American artist Dana Coleman from South Carolina. Coleman's portrait morphs a school picture of Mrs. Polite taken at 10 the same age as Priscilla when she was exiled to America and pictures of modern Sierra Leonean children. Coleman created a face that looks like a Sierra Leonean girl, but has a family resemblance to Thomalind. Mrs. Polite presented the original of Coleman's portrait showing the little girl bound as a slave, but with a strong, resolute face -- to the Sierra Leone National Museum. Records show the Hare's slaves were in poor condition when they arrived in America, the children having died in especially high numbers. Priscilla's survival on the middle passage shows her will to live despite the heavy odds.

The New-York Historical Society exhibit uses period maps and drawings and historical documents to follow the 1755/56 voyage of the Hare from Rhode Island, to Sierra Leone, to South Carolina. The extraordinary 249-year document trail linking Priscilla to her modern descendants is illustrated not just with the original documents in the New-York Historical Society collections, but also with historical documents borrowed from other archives in Rhode Island and South Carolina. Edward Ball and Joseph Opala's work to uncover Priscilla's story is also charted. And Thomalind Polite's recent homecoming to Sierra Leone is portrayed with photographs and souvenirs of her visit exhibited here for the first time.

"Finding Priscilla's Children" also includes a short video that brings Priscilla's story full-circle. Priscilla's last moments in Africa are brought to life with a reconstruction of Bunce Island, the British slave castle in Sierra Leone, as it appeared in the 18th century. Prepared by Joseph Opala and Gary Chatelain, an architectural historian also at James Madison University, this CAD (Computer Assisted Design) image recreates what an African child imprisoned at Bunce Island would see as she was led through the door to the children's prison, past various security gates, and then down the long ramp to the waiting slave ship. The video also contains scenes of Ms. Polite's recent homecoming to Sierra Leone, including her emotional visit to the ruins at Bunce Island.

Joseph Opala, the curator of the exhibit, is an historian who lived in Sierra Leone for 17 years. Mr. Opala is known for his research on the "Gullah Connection," the long historical thread linking the people of Sierra Leone to the Gullah peopleAfrican Americans who live in coastal South Carolina and Georgia. In the 1980s and 1990s he organized two "Gullah Homecomings" to Sierra Leone. Opala's research has resulted in two documentary films, "Family Across the Sea" (1990) and "The Language You Cry In" (1998). Mr. Opala teaches at James Madison University in Virginia. He has served as an advisor on cultural policy to the Government of Sierra Leone and advisor on African American history to the US National Park Service. Opala has been Scholar-in-Residence at Penn Center in South Carolina and a research fellow at Yale University's Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition.

The New-York Historical Society, one of the country's preeminent educational and research institutions, is dedicated to presenting public programs and fostering research that reveal the dynamism of history and its influence on the world today. Founded in 1804, its mission is to explore the richly layered history of New York City and State and the country, and serve as a national forum for the debate and examination of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history.

New-York Historical Society holds one of the world's greatest collections of historical artifacts, American art, and other materials documenting the history of the United States and New York, and is home to both one of the nation's most distinguished independent research libraries and New York City's oldest museum. The Society's collections include more than 4.5 million American history-related documents, paintings, artifacts, and ephemera. Highlights of these holdings include: an exceptional collection of materials relating to slavery, the Civil War, and reconstruction; all of the original watercolors from John J. Audubon's Birds of America; an outstanding collection of 18th century newspapers; an extensive collection of Tiffany glasswork; and far-ranging materials relating to the founding and early history of the nation. The strength and depth of these collections provides a vital foundation for the Society's research and educational initiatives. For a full list of upcoming public programs, please visit .

Related resources: Additional information and online presentations concerning "Priscilla's Homecoming" are available from the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University, at, and the University of South Florida's African Heritage Project, at

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New Book

Manipulating the Sacred: Yorùbá Art, Ritual, and Resistance in Brazilian Candomblé
By Mikelle S. Omari-Tunkara
Wayne State University Press, 208 pp., illustrations. 2005.

Omari-Tunkara book cover
Description from the Publisher:

At a time when the art of the African diaspora has aroused much general interest for its multicultural dimensions, Mikelle Smith Omari-Tunkara contributes strikingly rich insights as a participant/observer in the African-based religions of Brazil. She focuses on the symbolism and function of ritual objects and costumes used in the Brazilian Candomblé (miniature "African" environments or temples) of the Bahia region. An initiate herself with more than twenty years of study, the author is considered an insider, and has witnessed how practitioners manipulate the "sacred" to encode, in art and ritual, vital knowledge about meaning, values, epistemologies, and history.

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New Book

Unlocking the Past: Celebrating Historical Archaeology in North America
Edited by Lu Ann De Cunzo and John H. Jameson, Jr.
University Press of Florida, 256 pp., illustrations. 2005.

Unlocking the Past book cover
This new text, written for a broad audience and published by the Society for Historical Archaeology and the University Press of Florida, provides a number of chapters addressing aspects of African diasporas in North America.

Description from the Publisher:

Leading readers to archaeological sites from Canada to the Caribbean and through time from the era of early Norse voyages to World War II, this book describes compelling discoveries unearthed by archaeologists in search of North America's historical past. The essays challenge our ideas about the continent as they reveal how native and immigrant peoples interacted with their environment and each other over the course of five centuries.

Through the work of more than 30 archaeological teams, readers learn about the rich diversity of historical archaeology, exploring the who, what, where, when, how, and why of the discipline. The authors explain how they dissect soils, recover fragile objects, document each element of excavation, and piece together the many fragments of evidence from archives, libraries, and laboratories.

The tales in Unlocking the Past are organized into five themes. "Cultures in Contact" unravels the contributions of architecture, landscape, food, dining, burial practices, and other factors to our understanding of everyday life in the past. "Challenging and Changing Environments" highlights the techniques, resources, and questions that historical archaeologists use to understand the roots of ways of thinking about and acting on the land. Through burial remains left beneath streets and tall buildings, "Building Cities" portrays urban life in large cities like New York, World Heritage cities like Quebec, and industrial cities like Oakland, California. "Making a Living in Rural America" explores the rural tradition in North American history as archaeologists "read" the traces of ancient farms, ranches, potteries, and mills. "Cultures in Conflict" introduces the archaeology of colonial wars, the U.S. Civil War, the epic Battle of Little Bighorn, and World War II.

Lu Ann De Cunzo is associate professor of anthropology and early American culture at the University of Delaware, Newark. John H. Jameson Jr. is senior archaeologist with the National Park Service's Southeast Archeological Center in Tallahassee, Florida.

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Call for Papers
Pan-Africanisms Conference, April 20-22, 2006

Announcement on H-Africa, H-Net Discussion Group (November 2005).

The African American Studies Department at Yale University invites submissions for a graduate student conference that will be held April 20-22, 2006 in New Haven, CT. The conference, Pan-Africanisms: The Work of Diaspora Within and Without the Academy, will provide a forum for emergent voices in the field to address the constructions of nationalism, diaspora, and community that animate the scholarship and activism of African American Studies.

Additionally, this conference will engage a dialogue of commemoration and reflection. Nearly forty years since the first black studies departments entered the academy, the relevance of their work has continually been the subject of debate. In the past year, academic press querying the state of black studies and its apparent "identity crisis" has concerned exigent questions about what constitutes and distinguishes African American Studies, as well as the institutional and theoretical relationships between African American Studies and other traditional and multidisciplinary departments. The crucial issues imbedded in the debate about how (and why) to delineate the field of African American Studies are central concerns of our conference.

We invite graduate students to submit paper proposals that explore the particular work of African American Studies by addressing the historical, literary, political, and philosophical strands of Pan- Africanisms. Rather than positing a distinct ideology, we use the term Pan-Africanisms to refer to the multiplicity of movements, philosophies, and scholarly innovations that complicate the boundaries of diasporic study. We encourage papers that address Pan-Africanisms through themes that include, but are not limited to: global feminisms, gender and sexuality, grass-roots activism, environmental justice and geopolitical movements, religious studies, visual culture, performance studies, literary and filmic criticism, and post-colonial theory. We are also desirous of papers that explore the theme of Pan-Africanisms as a set of corresponding questions; such as: What are the intellectual traditions of Pan-Africanism? What does Pan-Africanism mean to a post- (or neo) colonial present? What is the methodology of Pan-Africanism and what is the relationship between its political projects and the academy? How might Pan-Africanism help us identify the particular contributions of black studies and the interchange between African Studies and African American Studies? Similarly, how might the theme of Pan-Africanism help us understand the particular convergence and divergence of the key terms diaspora, transnationalism, and black Atlantic?

Graduate students whose work involves black studies across the humanities and social sciences are invited to submit a CV and a 1 page abstract to: or to:
Pan-Africanisms Conference
c/o Brandi Hughes
493 College Street
Yale Station
P.O. Box 203388
New Haven, CT 06520-3388.

Submissions must be received by January 9, 2005.

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Call for Papers
Centering the Periphery:
Globalization and Identity in the African Diaspora

Announcement posted at

Conference Date: April 5-8, 2006.
CFP Deadline: February 1, 2006.
Location: Westin Hotel, Charlotte, North Carolina.
Sponsored by the Department of Africana Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Scholars and researchers, please join the Department of Africana Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte for a stimulating exploration of the past, present, and future of the African Diaspora. Seen as perhaps the quintessential global periphery, Africa and its Diaspora stand at the center of this conference. We hope to generate new perspectives toward these areas by encouraging scholarship that interrogates the Diaspora’s role in broad historical and sociological trends, innovations in literature, music, and art, and geopolitical developments.

We seek papers that grapple with the complexities of identity and community among African-descended peoples throughout the Diaspora and on the continent itself. We also intend to spur debate about the analytical utility of terms such as "Diaspora" and "globalization." To what extent, for instance, can the process(es) of Diaspora help us understand the centuries-old but recently accelerated phenomenon of globalization? This conference seeks to engage the community of scholars of various regions and epistemologies of the Diaspora in discussions regarding the centering, re-imaging and transnationalizing of Africana-related theories, concepts and ideas.

We hope to facilitate the gathering and interaction of the largest number of Africa and African Diaspora specialists as well as generalists and focus on the most pressing existential, ideological, and intellectual issues affecting the Black World across time and space.

The conference committee welcomes submissions of individual papers and greatly encourages pre-arranged panels. Scholarly roundtable discussions are also encouraged but will require extended review from the program committee to ensure these fit a wide range of research interests. The conference committee seeks research examining a broad spectrum of disciplines targeting the Diaspora. Disciplines may include, but are not limited to -- Africana Studies, African American Studies, Ethnic Studies, Latina/o Studies, Latin American Studies, Caribbean Studies, Chicano Studies, anthropology, archeology, architecture, art, communication, dance, film, health & health care, history, literature, linguistics, music, political science, religion, sociology, theatre, women's studies, rural and urban studies. Interested participants should submit proposals/abstracts of 150-200 words for papers and a brief resume. Panel submissions require proposals/abstracts (150-200 words) and resumes of each individual paper and a brief overview of the goals of the panel. Roundtable submissions require detailed bios highlighting the expertise of the proposed participating scholars and a detailed description (150-200 words) of the roundtable.

Submissions should be sent by mail or email to:
c/o Ms. Elsie Byrd, Office Manager
Dr. Robert S. Smith, Asst. Professor
Department of Africana Studies, Macy Building 204A
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte
9201 University City Boulevard
Charlotte, North Carolina 28223-0001
Phone: 704.687.2371
Fax: 704.687.3888
Deadline for Submissions is Feb. 1, 2006.

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Call for Papers:
Africa's Indigenous Science and Knowledge Systems

Posted on H-Africa, H-Net Discussion Group (December 2005).

Conference Title: Africa's Indigenous Science and Knowledge Systems
Location: Nigeria.
Date: October 24, 2006.
CFP Deadline: April 28, 2006.

The Department of History, Nasarawa State University, Keffi, Nigeria in conjunction with the Global Africa Foundation, New Britain, USA announce its second international conference on Africa's indigenous science and knowledge systems. The focus areas include:

a) Conceptual issues related to science and indigenous knowledge systems;
b) Ethical issues surrounding Intellectual Property Rights, Compensation for resource persons and experts; Principles for knowledge management;
c) Indigenous knowledge systems and the curriculum;
d) Case studies from the Disciplines;
i. The interconnections between science and religion in a specific area;
ii. Indigenous mathematical systems in particular ethnic, linguistic or cultural regions across the continent;
iii. The Medical, Therapeutic value of Traditional Health Care; The scientific basis of traditional remedies; Constraints and Challenges in Traditional Health Care; Indigenous Practitioners; HIV/AIDS and the way Forward;
iv. Mental care and traditional methodologies;
e) Triumphs and constraints in indigenous technologies with respect to cloth making, beer and other beverages, soap and cosmetics, metallurgy, building materials, etc.;
f) Comparative Regional Studies and lessons to be learnt from i) South East Asia, ii) South Asia, iii) China, iv) Japan, v) Other Regions.

The conference is slated for October 24th-27th, 2006. Deadline for abstract is April 28, 2006. Full paper should be submitted by September 29th. Venue of the conference is Nasarawa State University, Keffi, Nigeria. Keffi is about 45 minutes drive from Abuja, the national Capital of Nigeria Registration for foreign participants is $100 and participants from Africa is N5000.

All correspondence should be directed to Adoyi Onoja, Secretary Local Organizing Committee. E-mail address is Olayemi Akinwumi, Department of History, Nasarawa State University, P.M.B. 1022, Keffi, Nigeria; Adoyi Onoja, Department of History, Nasarawa State University, P.M.B. 1022, Keffi, Nigeria. Email:

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Call for Papers: Afro-Ásia Journal

Announcement by Afro-Ásia journal of the
Federal University of Bahia and the Harriet Tubman Resource Center on the African Diaspora.

UFB image Founded in 1965, Afro-Ásia is a quarterly publication of the Center of Afro-Oriental Studies (CEAO) of the Federal University of Bahia in Salvador, Brazil (UFBA). It publishes articles on issues related to African and Asian populations and their descendants in Brazil and elsewhere. Afro-Ásia is one of the few Brazilian publications fully dedicated to African and Afro-Brazilian studies, in a country and state (Bahia) where Africa's vital role in history and culture is widely known. The work published in Afro-Ásia has promoted academic debate on such issues as the history of slavery, racial relations or the complex processes of identity construction, and has also been crucial in informing a progressive socio-political agenda in the fight against ethnic and racial inequality in Brazil. Beginning in 2005, the printed edition of the journal will be supplemented by an electronic version.

Editors: Luis Nicolau Parés, Renato da Silveira e Valdemir Zamparoni (interim). Editorial Board: Michel Agier (ORSTROM/France), George Reid Andrews (Univ. of Pittsburgh, USA), Ubiratan Castro de Araújo (UFBA), Marion Aubrée (CNRS/France), Júlio Braga (UFBA), Marcus Joaquim M. de Carvalho (UFPE), Anani Dzidzenyo (Brown Univ., USA), Paulo F. de Moraes Farias (Univ. of Birmingham, England), Flávio dos Santos Gomes (UFRJ), Antonio Sérgio A. Guimarães (USP), Carlos A Hasenbalg (CEAA/UNICAM), Silvia H. Lara (UNICAMP), Vivaldo da Costa Lima (UFBA), Yvonne Maggie (UFRJ), J. Lorand Mattory (Harvard Univ., USA), Kátia M. de Queirós Mattoso (Univ. of Paris-Sorbonne), Elikia M'Bokolo (EHESS/France), Maria Inês Côrtes de Oliveira (UFBA), Angelina Pollak-Eltz (Catholic Univ. Andrés Bello/Caracas), Reginaldo Prandi (USP), João José Reis (York Univ., Canada), Rebecca Scott (Univ. of Michigan, USA), Edward Telles (UCLA/EUA), Olabyi Babalola Yai (Univ. of Florida, USA), and Valdemir Zaparoni (UFBA).

Papers written in English, French or Spanish can be submitted for evaluation, but if accepted for publication the author will provide a Portuguese translation. In special cases Afro-Ásia may take responsibility for the translation. Also in exceptional cases papers already published in a foreign language may be accepted for publication according to their relevance for the Brazilian reader.

Submissions may be sent, and information about the publication style guidelines can be obtained, by writing to: Papers written in English, French or Spanish can be submitted for evaluation, but if accepted for publication the author will provide a Portuguese translation. In special cases Afro-Ásia may take responsibility for the translation. Also in exceptional cases papers already published in a foreign language may be accepted for publication according to their relevance for the Brazilian reader.

Table of Contents of the forthcoming Issue Number 32:
    The Kaabú and Its Neighbors: A Historical and Spatial Reading in Explaining Conflicts, by Carlos Lopes.

    Bahasa Persatuan: Idiom and Nation in Colonial Indonesia (1915-1950), by Fernando Rosa Ribeiro.

    Travelling Words: A Study of Christian and Muslim Medieval Travel Accounts, by Maria Cândida Ferreira de Almeida.

    From Masked Mulattos to Not So Light-skinned Whites: Racial Classification in Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Brazil, by Jocélio Teles dos Santos.

    The Slaves from the Feitoria do Linho Cânhamo: Labor, Conflict and Negotiation, by Maximiliano Mac Menz.

    Child Slave Labor in the City of Salvador 1850-1888, by Maria Cristina Luz Pinheiro.

    Family Ties: From Slavery to Freedom in the Semi-arid Region of São Francisco, by Elisangela Oliveira Ferreira.

    Delindra Maria de Pinho: An Honorable Freed Black Woman in Recife in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century, by Maciel H. Silva.

    Capoeira and Boi-bumbá: Territories and Struggles of Afro-Amazonian Culture in Belém (1889-1906), by Luis Augusto Pinheiro Leal.

    Between Order and Disorder: Pedro Mineiro and Other Capoeiras in Salvador During the República Velha, by Adriana Albert Dias.

    Review: Three Visions on Color and Race in Brazil, by Lívio Sansone.

    Review: Secrets, Gossip and Gods by Paul Christopher Johnson, by Brian Brazeal.

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Call for Books: Left Coast Press

By Mitch Allen

November 14, 2005. Press contact:
Mitch Allen 925 935-3380/

New academic publisher Left Coast Press, Inc. has an interest in developing projects that demonstrate the representation of ethnicity in the archaeological record, with a particular interest in topics dealing with Africa and the African diaspora.

Left Coast Press

Left Coast Press released its first two archaeology titles in September. Thomas King's Doing Archaeology: A Cultural Resource Management Perspective and David Whitley's Introduction to Rock Art Research -- the first two books published by Left Coast -- are both supplemental textbooks for undergraduate courses. Launched in March 2005 by Mitch Allen, founder of AltaMira Press, Left Coast will publish two additional archaeology books this fall, including one by Brian Fagan. New book series on American material culture, CRM methods, and indigenous issues are also being launched, along with a series sponsored by the World Archaeological Congress. Left Coast Press, Inc. books are distributed by University of Arizona Press. Further information on the Left Coast, based in Walnut Creek, California, is available at

A specialty press, Left Coast will produce scholarly works, professional books, advanced textbooks, journals, and products in other media for the global archaeological community at modest prices. Other lists will be developed for museum professionals, archivists, anthropologists, public historians, and environmental professionals.

Brian Fagan's Writing Archaeology: Telling Stories About the Past, a guide to writing for the general public, will be available in November, followed in December by Ancient Starch Research, a collaborative work edited by Robin Torrence and Huw Barton, outlining the uses of starch in archaeological analysis. In future years, books are expected by such well-known archaeologists as Claire Smith, William Rathje, Barbara Little, and Sarah Milledge Nelson.

The World Archaeological Congress Research Handbook Series, edited by George Nicholas and Julie Hollowell, will produce extensive summaries of major subfields and issues. Larry Zimmerman, Sonia Atalay and T.J. Ferguson will be developing the series indigenous issues in American archaeology. Jeff Altschul will launch a series of practical guidebooks to doing CRM archaeology. Carolyn White and Tim Scarlett will edit a series of identification guides to American artifacts. An annual volume will update cultural property law, edited by Sherry Hutt.

Publisher Mitch Allen created Left Coast after leaving his position as Publisher of AltaMira Press. Books he sponsored have won the SAA book award in each of the last three years. The Left Coast name is not a political banner, but reflects the geographical and cultural position of the press in the San Francisco Bay Area, a locus of innovative ideas and organizations.

Left Coast Press, Inc. is located at 1630 N. Main Street #400, Walnut Creek, CA 94596. Phone and fax 925 935-3380. Ordering information: Left Coast Press, c/o University of Arizona Press, 355 S. Euclid Ave., Suite 103, Tucson, AZ 85719. Phone 1-800 426-3797; fax: 520-621-8899; web Customers can also order off the Left Coast Press, Inc. website: Orders from Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Australia, and the Pacific should be sent to Berg Publishers in Oxford,

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Cahuita Symposium on Slavery, Culture, and Religion

Conference announcement posted at

Sponsors: Harriet Tubman Resource Centre on the African Diaspora, York University; Institut de Investigiones Sociales, Universidad de Costa Rica; UNESCO "Slave Route" Project, Secteur de la Culture.

February 11-15, 2006, Cahuita, Costa Rica.

The symposium to be held on the beautiful shores of the Caribbean in Cahuita, Costa Rica, will have as a theme, "Slavery, Culture and Religion," with a focus on the visual and documentary representations of religion and culture and the use of these materials in the reconstruction of the social history of slavery. The geographical areas include the Caribbean and Central America, that is the Atlantic world, and beyond, to the Pacific. The South Atlantic, with the link between Brazil and Africa, and the Anglo-Atlantic are recognized as coherent systems, which engaged Atlantic Africa and indeed southwestern Africa across the Atlantic. The Indian Ocean extension of slavery and the Islamic world are part of this complex history. The thematic scope of the symposium encompasses the cultural manifestations of slavery in all these geographical regions, with the intention of exploring and comparing the symbolism and forms of expression that were used to transfer and transform artistic and cultural modes across the Atlantic, and indeed the Sahara and Indian Ocean. The symposium intends to discuss issues informed by knowledge of Islam, Christianity, the orisa, and the religious traditions that focus on the dead.

The model of the symposium is the Avignon style, developed by Professor Gywn Campbell, McGill University. All papers will be available to registered participants in advance. Papers will not formally be presented; instead designated discussants will consider the submitted papers and lead a general discussion around specific themes. It is assumed that participants will read the papers before the symposium.

Format: Papers will be posted on the registered conference website, only accessible with registration, which must include submission of the committed paper. Papers will be posted in PDF format and accessible to registered participants. There will be no copies of the papers available in Cahuita. All papers must be downloaded or stored on computers of participants, from the website, once papers have been submitted upon registration. Participants are advised to bring hard copies of papers with them, if they so wish.

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Fourth International Conference on Igbo Studies:
A Tribute to Don Ohadike

Conference announcement posted at

Venue: Howard University, Washington, D.C., March 31 to April 1, 2006.

Theme: The Igbo and Its Diaspora: Interrogating Culture, History, and Identity.

The 4th International Conference on Igbo Studies highlights the central role of culture in Igbo life, history and identity. In choosing this theme we hope to foster contributions that explore the concept of Igbo culture, history, and identity in varying and transforming ways. Papers exploring various disciplinary and inter-disciplinary approaches are particularly welcome. We also welcome contributions that examine the formation and transformation of Igbo culture and identities at individual, group, national, and transnational levels in Africa and the Diaspora. Contributions should strengthen existing dialogue on Igbo Studies. Submissions from graduate students and community activists are welcome. The proceedings of the conference will be published in 2007.

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9th Annual US/ICOMOS International Symposium
From World Heritage to Your Heritage

Conference announcement posted at

The World Heritage List as a rich source of models for the protection and management of heritage sites with a particular focus on World Heritage cities.

The long conversation between the American preservation experience and international programs has had a huge influence on the protective and management standards established in the World Heritage Operational Guidelines, something that continues to this day. In the international back-and-forth exchange of ideas contributions are adapted and transformed in ways that often improve them beyond recognition. When these return to our shores, along with fresh innovations from abroad, they find new applications as entirely new solutions to our own domestic challenges.

It is in this spirit of learning from each other that the 9th US/ICOMOS International Symposium will convene on 20 to 22 April, 2006, in historic Newport, Rhode Island, to look once again at the World Heritage Convention and its List as a rich source of models to improve the protection and management of the vast heritage of the United States, as well as to share with others some of our more recent national, state and local initiatives and approaches that may be applicable to World Heritage sites, with a particular focus on World Heritage cities, but not to the exclusion of other categories of sites.

The World Heritage Convention is not just about the World Heritage List, but about every country's "duty of ensuring the identification, protection, conservation, presentation and transmission to future generations of the cultural and natural heritage . . . situated on its territory" (Art 4 of the Convention).

While the World Heritage List may seem like a tool for international cooperation exclusively for the sites inscribed in it, it really accomplishes more than that. By establishing minimum standards for significance, authenticity and management for all sites inscribed, the List also helps each country in developing the know-how needed to protect the full range of its cultural and natural resources, and in setting up paradigms that have broad national applicability.

The 9th Symposium will also look at the participation of the United States in the World Heritage Convention in relation to other countries to identify ways in which US/ICOMOS and other US heritage organizations can support our official agencies in fulfilling our international cultural commitments to both the Convention and to UNESCO.

Osun-Osogbo Grove

Related announcement: The Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove in Nigeria has been added to the World Heritage List. UNESCO's announcement describes this cultural property as follows: "The dense forest of the Osun Sacred Grove, on the outskirts of the city of Osogbo, is one of the last remnants of primary high forest in southern Nigeria. Regarded as the abode of the goddess of fertility Osun, one of the pantheon of Yoruba gods, the landscape of the grove and its meandering river is dotted with sanctuaries and shrines, sculptures and art works in honour of Osun and other Yoruba deities. The Grove, which is now seen as a symbol of identity for all Yoruba people, is probably the last sacred grove in Yoruba culture. It testifies to the once widespread practice of establishing sacred groves outside all settlements."

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Book Review

Bennett book cover

Published by H-LatAm, (July 2005); and H-Slavery, (September 2005).

Herman L. Bennett. Africans in Colonial Mexico: Absolutism, Christianity, and Afro-Creole Consciousness, 1570-1640. Blacks in the Diaspora Series. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003. x + 275 pp. Maps, table, glossary, notes, bibliography, index. $39.95 (cloth), ISBN 0-2533-4236-8; $22.95 (paper), ISBN 0-2532-1775-X.

Reviewed for H-LatAm by Andrew B. Fisher, Department of History, Carleton College.

Creating Subjects and Forging Community: Afro-Mexicans and Colonial Institutional Power

Scholarship on Mexico's place within the African Diaspora has experienced a veritable renaissance of late. Herman Bennett's book, Africans in Colonial Mexico, contributes to this effort by examining sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Mexico City, the capital of a colony that for much of this period held the second largest African slave population and the largest free black population in the Americas.

Bennett scrutinizes the lives and process of community formation of the enslaved and free through a close-reading of marriage petitions and bigamy trials adjudicated by the Mexican Inquisition. He posits that an African creole consciousness evolved hand-in-hand with a "legal consciousness" by which individuals learned to position themselves within colonial institutions and practices. In particular, he argues that Spanish absolutism, by which chattel were transformed into both vassals of the Crown and members of the Catholic community, enabled Africans and their descendants to curtail the control and authority of the paterfamilias, the slave owner, while asserting their own social networks and communities.

The opening chapters set the stage for the central findings of the book. Chapter 1 summarizes current knowledge of the foundations of African slavery in rural and urban settings throughout Mexico. Echoing the work of Ira Berlin, Bennett argues that New Spain, and Mexico City more specifically, constituted a "slave society," where "the master-slave relationship provided the model for all social relations," although curiously this paradigm is argued to have evolved in absence of a well-developed plantation system (p. 32). Much as Berlin does for colonial America, Bennett traces three distinct phases of the African Diaspora and community formation in Mexico through the mid-seventeenth century.[1] Relying on examples like the famed "black conquistador" Juan Garrido, Bennett identifies a charter ladino generation able to take advantage of a relatively fluid nascent society.[2] Several decades after the conquest, Mexico's demography shifted radically as increasing numbers of non-Hispanic bozales entered the colony, exacerbating elite concerns over social control and orthodoxy. Finally, the end of Spain's access to Portuguese slaving by 1640 decreased slave imports while the freed and creole population expanded rapidly.

Chapter 2 discusses the importance of Iberian canon law for regulating the behavior of non-Christians in both the Old and New World. Bennett points out that scholarship on Spanish-American slavery has neglected ecclesiastical laws in favor of secular codes. In so doing he revises Tannenbaum's thesis, suggesting that the Church's intervention in the master-slave relationship had more to do with the desire to regulate slaves than to ameliorate the conditions of slavery.[3] Efforts to augment the sovereigns' absolutist aspirations by the thirteenth century signaled the reversal of a tradition of recognizing the corporate rights of Jews and Moors as extra ecclesiam or non-Christians, and the insistence that such individuals abide by Catholic norms. The decision of Charles I in 1518 to allow the importation of bozales to the New World led to the transfer of such treatment to Africans as a means of maintaining social control. As the numbers of bozales in the New World grew, Charles looked specifically to Christian marriage as the "grand remedy" for alleviating concerns over disorder and contested royal authority in Spain's far-flung empire. This insistence would ultimately translate into the Crown and Church's willingness to undermine the authority of the slave owner in order to regulate and reinforce the spiritual and conjugal lives of the enslaved.

Chapter 3 develops this argument further by tracing the increasing ecclesiastical vigilance over the perceived threat of Africans and mulattoes to the social fabric of New Spain as well as the menace of Protestant foreigners residing in the viceroyalty. Unconvinced by the clergy's ability to regulate the repblica de espaoles from either source of religious contagion and disorder, Philip II mandated the introduction of the Inquisition to New Spain in 1569. Here Bennett points out that nearly 50 percent of extant Inquisition records concern defendants of African descent, clearly indicating the authorities' desire to monitor more intensely a growing segment of the colonial population.

The last three chapters develop the central arguments of the book through a painstakingly detailed examination of case studies drawn from ecclesiastical records. Chapter 4 analyzes marriage petitions filed by individuals of African descent between 1584 and 1650, paying particular attention to the approximately 4,400 witnesses the conjugal parties selected to testify on their behalf (p. 81). As others have demonstrated, parish and ecclesiastical records surrounding major religious rites in the lifecycle can provide invaluable glimpses into the social networks of the participants. Bennett contributes to this effort by construing what witness selection might mean in terms of the ethnic consciousness of the betrothed and the evolution of community formation among the colony's black and mulatto population. This is done by gauging the relative similarity of a number of factors describing the parties involved; including recorded racial and ethnic ascriptions, place of residence, enslaved or free status, and length of mutual acquaintance. While labor relations have been found to be a critical source of patronage and basis of elite control over the city's plebeian population, Bennett notes that all African-based groups were reluctant to select Spaniards as marriage sponsors, a role one might expect patrons to play.[4] Preferences become more complicated, however, across the many ethnic and generational divides that came to characterize the Afro-Mexican population. Not surprisingly, for instance, the ability of West Africans to forge ties with one another declined dramatically by the seventeenth century as the slave trade shifted to West Central Africa and with the subsequent growth of so-called Angolans and Congos in the viceroyalty. Overall, Bennett makes a convincing case for the extent to which the Afro-Mexican community was able to sustain meaningful and long-term social connections that transcended the individual elite households in which they were so often held in bondage.

Ecclesiastical records over marriage disputes serve as the documentary base of chapter 5. Slaves came to understand fairly quickly that Iberian law afforded them a possibility of contesting the constraints slavery exerted on their lives. Given the primacy of a Christian identity over all other markers of status in this society, churchmen were willing to allow -- or, according to Bennett, even somewhat encourage (p. 128) -- slaves to challenge owners' claims of property and paternal authority by stressing the sanctity of marriage (particularly as it related to expectations of cohabitation) and the free will of the betrothed. Appealing to medieval canon law, which was not originally intended to regulate such individuals, enslaved Afro-Mexicans utilized rhetoric of Christian duty and morality as married individuals to limit slave owners' theoretically absolute right to manage or transfer their human property. Such challenges to the authority and honor of the paterfamilias extended beyond Spanish masters. The appeal of the free mulatto Gertrudis de San Nicols to Church authorities to overrule her father's unwillingness to allow her to marry an enslaved black creole underscores not only the agency of slaves and free women of color, but also the desire of Afro-Mexican men to assert authority as the paterfamilias of their own families and extended kin networks.

The final chapter offers a detailed reconstruction of the lives of four black and mulatto defendants punished for bigamy by Mexico City's second auto-de-fe in 1575. Emphasizing again the correlation of creolization with an awareness of and ability to navigate Iberian legal institutions and norms, Bennett demonstrates how the accused articulated the dominant Christian discourse while refusing to buckle entirely to the power and authority of their inquisitors. The agency of historical subalterns can be extended only so far, however. As Bennett reiterates, the absolutist state's interest in the enslaved was driven by a desire to regulate the bodies and lives of a new group of Christians. Interactions with Church institutions, whether that be a priest supervising a marriage or an inquisitor punishing the transgressions against that sacrament, were still instances where "the beliefs, customs, and bodies of Africans were steadily redefined in Christian terms," highlighting "the disruptive potential of Christianity" (p. 180).

In sum, Bennett's study of the limits of the absolutist project and the manner in which Africans interacted with and absorbed Christian discourse represents an important contribution to our understanding of the African experience in Mexico. While the author's argument is discernible throughout, his decision to present a large number of case studies in great detail at times makes it difficult to distinguish the forest for the trees. Indeed, the numerous claims of "patterns" backed by anecdotal case studies rather than a more quantifiable presentation of the evidence can be frustrating. The numerous marriage petitions and supporting witnesses that support the claims of chapter 4, for instance, seem suitable for such an alternative analysis, which might clarify the various trends the author purports to discern in the data. Nevertheless, specialists will recognize that Bennett has accomplished a remarkable feat in reconstituting the lives of New Spain's early African population despite the many intrinsic limitations of his source material, and in offering a new vantage point from which to study this important component of the African Diaspora.


[1]. Ira Berlin, Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1998).

[2]. Matthew Restall, "Black Conquistadors: Armed Africans in Early Spanish America," The Americas 57, No. 2 (2000): pp. 171-205.

[3]. Frank Tannenbaum, Slave and Citizen: The Negro in the Americas (New York: Vintage Books, 1946).

[4]. R. Douglas Cope, The Limits of Racial Domination: Plebeian Society in Colonial Mexico City, 166-1720 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1994).

Copyright (c) 2005 by H-Net, all rights reserved. H-Net permits the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit, educational purposes.

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