“All of Us Would Walk Together”: Dissertation and Exhibit
I am currently working on my dissertation at Michigan State University in the Department of Anthropology. The project is being conducted with materials excavated by the Historic St. Mary's City Commission (http://stmaryscity.org) over the past 20 years from a mid-19th century plantation. These materials tell the story of multiple African American households from the period of slavery, through the Civil War, and into the 20th century. One of these structures, a former duplex slave quarter and single family tenant home, still stands. Until recently, few historical archaeologists have examined post-slavery era plantation sites, particularly within the context of African American labor. In Maryland, this period has received even less attention, which is significant since the agricultural, political, and social context of Maryland as a Union border state indicates that the conditions for post-emancipation African American life differed greatly from those further south. By enquiring about the negotiation of space throughout the plantation and beyond its borders, I hope to expand our understanding of how African American families and communities established their own free spaces before and after the Civil War.
In addition to the research, I have also received funding from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Ford Foundation, and the SRI Foundation to build and curate an online digital exhibit. Hosted on Historic St. Mary's City's website, this exhibit will be composed of a static exhibit that tells the story of the site, as well as a blog and social media component that will discuss the ongoing process of conducting archaeological research. The exhibit focuses specific archaeological, architectural, and historical objects to build the historical narrative. The blog and social media component serve as a tool to discuss the way in which historical archaeology is conducted, serving as a "behind the scenes" look into the research process. Similarly, the blog serves as an arena for scholars, researchers, and community members to share research, interact, and build dialogue through a digital medium.