Archaeology of African American Communities

This course engages with the challenge posed by Black feminist scholars to engage in a critical reanalysis of the history of the US, with an emphasis on the neglected experiences and contributions of Black Americans. We will take small steps towards this goal by studying several African American communities over the past three centuries. Archaeological investigations will form the base of our study. Historical archaeology is a discipline that has long endeavored to unearth the experiences of people under- or misrepresented in traditional histories through the study of material culture and texts. We will expand the traditional methods of this discipline and additionally draw upon oral testimonies, autobiographies, fiction, and art. Our readings and discussions will center the work of Black scholars, writers, and artists. The syllabus will survey a range of communities (rural, urban, and suburban) populated by captive, self-emancipated, and free people of African descent in the American South, East, and Midwest, from the seventeenth through the twentieth centuries. Our focus will be on the agency of African Americans and include topics such as: community, place, and freedom-making, identity and citizenship, strategic use and creative production of material culture, daily life and labor, and health. Class meetings will be seminar style with student-led discussion of assigned readings. If possible, we will also visit a relevant museum and/or site. Assignments will include a research paper or project (on a topic of your choice, and digital projects are welcome), presentations, and leading class discussion. There are no prerequisites, and newcomers to archaeology are welcome. 3 credits. May satisfy the chronological requirement, depending on final project.