African American Plantation Life Thematic Issues in Plantation Archaeology
Atlantic African Diaspora Differences between lives of the enslaved vs. lives of free blacks African-American identity The effects of racism
Segregation & separate institutions Accommodation & resistance Routes to obtaining full US citizenship Consumption & consumer Choice Archaeology of Slavery in the US southern colonies & Caribbean, slavery closely linked to the phenomenon of the plantation
earliest work on slave sites in North American historical archaeology initiated by Charles Fairbanks in 1968, with the following themes: Evidence of daily life & survival (diet, housing, etc.) Search for cultural retentions = Africanisms? Plantation archaeology: a few key published sites Kingsley Plantation, Florida Cannons Point, Simons Island, Georgia
Butler Island, Georgia Carters Grove, Virginia Kingsmill Plantations, Virginia Rich Neck, Virginia Monticello, Virginia Andrew Jacksons Hermitage, Tennessee Chronological development - 1970s and 80s
Charles Fairbanks Pioneering work on plantation sites in coastal Georgia (and Florida) from late 1960s (Fairbanks was at University of Florida) South Carolina contract archaeology from mid-1970s developed new approaches and applied pattern recognition to plantation sites. In addition, Leyland Fergusons study of locally made (S Carolina) colono earthen-wares very influential (1977) Virginia lots of work done on early colonial sites and the big houses of planters.
deposits of enslaved men and women were looked at to interpret their lives behind the big house (Ivor Noel Hume - Colonial Williamsburg ) from mid 1970s studies specifically looked at slavery (Bill Kelsos work in Kingsmill, Virginia, etc) Slavery and Plantation Archaeology Plantation archaeology laid the foundations of African-American archaeology and continues to give it direction; most understandings of African-American life are
still derived from plantation studies The initial intentional studies had two purposes: 1.to provide information on the daily lives or living conditions of enslaved African Americans missing from histories 2.to examine how African heritage influenced African-American culture Frameworks for Plantation Archaeology Generally one of two approaches:
1. How did the economic function of the plantation organize plantation work? - how did cash crop requirements or labour arrangements structure the lives of slaves ? - how did slaves have access to material possessions and provide food and other items for themselves? (see Singleton, Orser)
2. How did economic structure of plantation shape social structures and class relations ? Frameworks for Plantation Archaeology A third approach more may be termed the Culturalist framework. This attempts to looks at plantation social relations beyond purely
economic considerations. Plantation life is defined as a complex of shared experiences formed from the forced interactions of planters and labourers from different cultural traditions looking at interplay of planter domination and resistance Some researchers focus on perceived African continuities house forms, ceramic forms and use, ritual Others study the process of creolization a process of multicultural
exchange and interaction The Myth of the Negro Past Melville J. Herskovits (1895 1963) Herskovits was a pioneer in Black studies who with his 1941 work, The Myth of the Negro Past (1990), almost single-handedly dismantled the long-standing belief that people of African descent
did not retain any remnants of African culture or beliefs. These cultural retentions were termed by Herskovits to be "Africanisms. Kingsley Plantation, Florida, 1814-1900 Charles Fairbanks excavated at the Kingsley Plantation in Duval County, Florida in 1968. This had been a slave training centre; he hoped to find Africanisms but was not sure what to expect
Kingsley Plantation, Florida Kingsley Plantation, Florida Recent work, 2006-07 Charles Fairbanks (1984:2): "Kingsley had been a slave importer, with perhaps an unusually
permissive attitude towards his charges. I had done what appeared to be an adequate amount of research to establish a number of things that I hoped to demonstrate. Among these were the search for Africanisms among the material artifacts of those newly arrived slaves, evidence of adaptation in housing, dress, behavior to the new situation, and data on lifestyle...... No evidence of Africanisms was found, even though we were digging in the structures of an unusually permissive slave
owner, dealing with newly imported slaves. Belatedly realizing that the slaves came naked and in chains, I still could not understand why they did not recreate some African artifacts." Cannons Point Plantation, Georgia Cannons Point Plantation (1794-1860) St Simons Island, Georgia
Cannons Point Plantation, Georgia John Otto (a Fairbanks PhD student) excavated at Cannons Point Instead of looking for residual Africanisms he looked for evidence of status differences ceramics found at sites associated with slave, overseer, & master Millwood Plantation, Abbeville, South Carolina
Charles Orser used a Marxian framework to look at postbellum tenant occupation at, where he identified five classes of plantation occupants : landlord, millwright, tenant, servant, and wage labourer. Orser concluded that material differences between tenure groups were not based entirely upon ethnicity or race but upon ones position in the plantation hierarchy
Leland G. Ferguson Colono Ware Originally defined by Ivor Noel Hume (1962) as Colono-Indian wares; now believed to have been produced by enslaved Africans one of the most visible aspects of African American culture in
Colonial America (Joseph 1993) Some colono-ware was made into European-styled forms including cups, chamber pots, pitchers, porringers, and pipkins; Ivor Noel Hume suggested that Indians made them to be traded with English settlers. Another category may be similar to forms important in West Africa. The social meaning of colonowares was investigated by Ferguson (Ferguson, 1989 1991) Crosses found on pots related to Kongo religion and the making of minkisi or
sacred medicines Congo-Angolan peoples also associated the pots with water; many have been found in water. Butler Plantation, Georgia Theresa Singletons undertook PhD research on Butler Plantation Examined treatment of
slaves at plantation infirmary Found evidence for selfmedication, and care Theresa Singleton Current research in Ghana and Cuba Advocates Afro-centric perspective on the archaeology of the African Diaspora
Notes that Fairbanks early efforts constituted a moral mission to remedy gaps in our knowledge Observes that contemporary archaeologists of the African Diaspora are more interested in social action Concern for descendant groups Interested in getting more AfricanAmericans involved in historical
archaeology Carters Grove, Williamsburg, Virginia Carter's Grove is a 750 acre site located on the north shore of the James River. The plantation was built for Carter Burwell and was completed in 1755.
Carters Grove, Williamsburg, Virginia Social contestation reflecting desire to control people and or landscapes. House near the fields and overseerers houses to watch over slave quarters Carters Grove, Williamsburg, Virginia
Carters Grove, Williamsburg, Virginia Carters Grove, slaves converted back windows into doors, providing access to common enclosed area within, shielded from view by the cabins (Epperson 1990a:34) Kingsmill Plantation, Virginia
Kingsmill Plantation The Utopia Quarter at Kingsmill Sub-floor pits Root cellars of storage pits have interested many scholars Especially prevalent in Virginia (Carters Grove, and Kingsmill, and Monticello) Usually 2 x 3ft to 5 x 8ft and 2-4 ft deep.
Not found in Georgia (with 1 possible exception) and South Carolina Is this African derived or slaves making their own spaces or hiding things? Not a mark of ethnicity, but of status within plantation, with a variety of uses Kingsmill Plantation
Kingsmill Plantation Rich Neck Plantation Maria Franklin Interested in development of Afro-Virginian culture. Particular interest in gender issues, women, children, foodways, spiritual
beliefs. Advocates an African feminist perspective Rich Neck Plantation Rich Neck was one of the founding plantations of Middle Plantation, preceding Williamsburg. Rich Necks architectural sophistication set it apart from nearly all of its colonial
neighbours. Started in 1636 by Richard Kemp, the Secretary of the Colony, the plantation grew to over 4,000 acres in size by the mid-seventeenth century. Richard Kemp and his wife Elizabeth built two structures entirely in brick, a rarity in 1640s Virginia.
reveal that over 3/4 of the potential meat at the site would have come from cattle, pigs, sheep/goat, and unidentifiable large and medium mammals, with cattle forming the
largest share. Similar rankings were suggested by the meat weight calculations. Rich Neck Plantation near Williamsburg Monticello,Virginia
"My opinion has ever been that, until more can be done for them, we should endeavor, with those whom fortune has thrown on our hands, to feed and clothe them well, protect them from ill usage, require such reasonable labor only as is performed voluntarily by freemen, and be led by no repugnancies to abdicate them, and our
duties to them." --Thomas Jefferson, 1814 Monticello, Virginia Monticello Monticello
Monticello Slave dwellings Mulberry Row Five log dwellings for slaves were located on Mulberry Row in 1796. The Mulberry Row cabins were occupied mainly by household servants -- women who did the cooking, washing, house cleaning, sewing, and child tending. The log cabins range in size from 12'x14' to 12'x20 1/2', with earth floors and
wooden chimneys. Archaeological excavations at these sites uncovered the cabin foundations, small brick-lined root cellars (in which slaves stored food and kept personal possessions), and thousands of discarded artifacts. Monticello Evidence for four or more architectural phases, spanning the
18th -19th centuries. Two of these phases clearly date to Jefferson's tenure. They are represented by the remains of the "Negro Quarter," built in the 1770s and by the traces of Buildings r, s, and t, dating to the 1790s. Monticello Andrew Jacksons Hermitage
Jackson built a Federal- style, two-story brick dwelling for his family between 1819 to 1821, and lived there from 1837, after retiring from the U.S. Presidency. Andrew Jacksons Hermitage
Slave cabins at The Hermitage were a standard 20-foot square cabin for each family unit. Most were constructed of brick, but some were log. Andrew Jacksons Hermitage Andrew Jacksons Hermitage
Archaeology of African Slavery - trends Move away from the archaeology of the Great House of the Big Man To the exploration of the lives of the Big Mans slaves archaeologists see evidence humane treatment by masters Evidence commonly found: catted chimneys root cellars (sub-floor pits) Colono ware
Emerging themes Atlantic African diaspora Resistance Cultural resiliency/creolization Expressed through syncretism: in dress incorporate symbolism w/dress provided by slave masters
religious syncretism recognizing elements of African foodways & food preparation techniques examining traditional medical practice & hygiene oral discourse - tales, songs, etc. Key points
Fairbanks initiated a new area of research interest when he began excavating slave sites Initial interest in filling in gaps and answering what questions have shifted to why and how questions and towards social action African-American archaeology now one of the most vibrant areas of research in historical archaeology & now includes many
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