Archaeology of african-american life and culture

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AFA 3360 (sect 5276)
MWF Period 3 (9:35am -- 10:25am)
Instructor: James M. Davidson, Ph.D.
Office: Turlington B134
Office Hours: Monday 2 – 5 pm (and by appointment)
Course Website:
Description: This course is designed to present a historical overview of the field of African-American archaeology, starting with the first scientific excavations in the 1940s. Participants will obtain knowledge of important case studies, key figures, major issues, and the overall development of the discipline. Theoretical, methodological, and ethical issues will be addressed. Through lectures, I will introduce the readings and provide broad overviews of the overarching topics and issues within the field of African-American Archaeology. A good portion of class time, however, will be spent discussing

and critiquing the readings.

Required Readings:
James Deetz

1996 In Small Things Forgotten: An Archaeology of Early American Life.

Anchor (Revised and Expanded edition)
Singleton, Theresa (editor)

1999 “I, Too, Am America”: Archaeological Studies of African-American Life.

University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville.
Electronic documents, comprising key articles and book chapters, will be posted and downloadable as .pdf files from a university server. Requirements: There will be two non cumulative exams, the format of which will be a mixture of objective questions (e.g., true false, multiple choice, etc), and one or more short answer or essay questions. There will also be a final exam (cumulative). Participation in class discussions is expected. Students are expected to have read the readings for that day, and come to class prepared to discuss them.
The writing component for this class is satisfied by three critical response essays on key readings to be assigned throughout the semester. Each essay will be three (maximum four) pages in length, double spaced, 12 point font, and one-inch margins. These will be corrected and returned with comments.
Exams 1 and 2 (20% each) 40%

Critical response essays (three total) 30%

Attendance/Class Participation 10%

Final Exam (comprehensive) 20%

A final letter grade will be assigned at the end of the semester, according to this scale: 94-100=A, 90-93=A-, 87-89=B+, 83-86=B, 80-82=B-, 77-79=C+, 73-76=C, 70-72=C-, 67-69=D+, 63-66=D, 60-62=D-, 59 and below = E.

Please note that a C- is not a satisfactory grade for major /minor or gened /Writing Requirement courses. For more information, see

Attendance: Regular attendance is expected. Excessive unexcused absences will

detract from the student’s final grade (see above).

Make-up Exams:
If an exam is missed, and the absence was pre-arranged, or in the event of illness

accompanied by a physician’s note, a make-up exam will be given. No make-up exams

will be given for students who miss the testing period due to unexcused absences.
Accommodating Students with Disabilities:
Students requesting classroom accommodation must first register with the Dean of

Students Office. The Dean of Students Office will provide documentation to the student,

who in turn must provide this documentation to me when requesting accommodation.

Academic Honesty:
The University reminds every student of the implied pledge of Academic Honesty: “on

any work submitted for credit the student has neither received nor given unauthorized


IT WILL NOT BE TOLERATED IN THIS CLASS. Students caught cheating will be referred to the University administration for disciplinary action, the consequences of which can include (among other things) failure of this course, and expulsion from the University. Consult the Student Guide at for further information.

Schedule and Topics:
Week 1 (August 22-24) Introduction (Historical Archaeology, etc).
Week 2 (August 27-31) Deetz’s “In Small Things Forgotten”
Week 3 (September 3-7) NO CLASS MONDAY – LABOR DAY

Deetz’s “In Small Things Forgotten”; Pioneering works and “Plantation Studies”

Week 4 (September 10-14) Pioneering works and “Plantation Studies” (continued)
Week 5 (September 17-21) Critiques of “Plantation Studies”
Week 6 (September 24-28) Critiques of “Plantation Studies” (continued); Race, culture, ethnicity
Week 7 (October 1-5) Race, culture, ethnicity (continued)
******Exam 1 (Wednesday – Oct 5) ******
Week 8 (October 8-12) Belief Systems/Spirituality
ESSAY NO. 1 (DUE OCTOBER 12, 2012)
Week 9 (October 15-19) Belief Systems/Spirituality (continued)
Week 10 (October 22-26) Mortuary Studies and Bioarchaeology
Week 11 (October 29 – November 2) NO CLASS FRIDAY -- HOMECOMING

Week 12 (November 5 – 9) Politics and representation

Mortuary Studies and Bioarchaeology (continued)
******Exam 2 (Wednesday – Nov. 9) ********
Week 13 (November 12-16) NO CLASS MONDAY – VETERAN’S DAY

Politics and Representation (continued)

Week 14 November 19 – 23) NO CLASS Wednesday through Friday -- Thanksgiving
Week 15 (November 26 – 30) Current research
Week 16 (December 3 – 5) Current research (continued)
ESSAY NO. 3 (DUE Wednesday -- DECEMBER 5, 2012)
******Final Exam ******
Final Exam Period (13C): Thursday December 13 --- 12:30 to 2:30 pm
Week 1 (August 22-24)
Warren Perry and Robert Paynter

“Artifacts, Ethnicity, and the Archaeology of African Americans”

(Chapter 15 in Theresa Singleton’s edited volume)

Singleton, Theresa and Mark D. Bograd

1995 The African Experience in America: A Brief Overview. In The Archaeology of

the African Diaspora in the Americas. Guides to the Archaeological Literature of the

Immigrant Experience in America, Number 2. The Society for Historical Archaeology
Week 2 (August 27-31)
James Deetz’s (1996) book, In Small Things Forgotten: An Archaeology of Early

American Life.

James Deetz

“Archaeology at Flowerdew Hundred”

(Chapter 3 in Theresa Singleton’s edited volume)
Weeks 3 and 4 (Sept 3-Sept 14)
(Finish reading Deetz’s book, In Small Things Forgotten…)
Pioneering works and “Plantation Studies”
Ascher, Robert and Charles Fairbanks

1971 Excavation of a Slave Cabin: Georgia, U.S.A. Historical Archaeology 5:3-17.

Bullen, Adelaide K. And Ripley P. Bullen

1945 Black Lucy’s Garden. Bulletin of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society

Otto, John Solomon

1980 Race and Class on Antebellum Plantations. In Archaeological Perspectives on

Ethnicity in America: Afro-American and Asian American Culture History, edited by

Robert L. Schuyler, pp. 3-13. Baywood Publishing Co, Farmingdale, NY.

Ferguson, Leland

1980 Looking for the “Afro” in Colono-Indian Pottery. In Archaeological Perspectives

on Ethnicity in America: Afro-American and Asian American Culture History, edited by

Robert L. Schuyler, pp. 14-28. Baywood Publishing Co, Farmingdale, NY

Wheaton, Thomas R. and Patrick H. Garrow

1985 Acculturation and the Archaeological Record in the Carolina Lowcountry. In The

Archaeology of Slavery and Plantation Life, edited by Theresa Singleton, pp. 239-269.

Academic Press, Orlando, FL.

Moore, Sue Mullins

1985 Social and Economic status on the coastal Plantation: An Archaeological

Perspective. In The Archaeology of Slavery and Plantation Life, edited by Theresa

Singleton, pp. 2141-160. Academic Press, Orlando, FL.

Adams, William Hampton and Sarah Jane Boling

1989 Status and Ceramics for Planters and Slaves on Three Georgia Costal Plantations.

Historical Archaeology 23(1):69-96.
Week 5 (Sept 17-Sept 21)
Critiques of Plantation Studies.
Baker, Vernon G.

1980 Archaeological visibility of Afro-American Culture: An Example from Black

Lucy’s Garden, Andover, Massachusetts. In Archaeological Perspectives on Ethnicity in

America, ed. Robert L. Schuyler, pp. 29-37. Baywood Press, Farmingdale, New York.

Potter, Parker B. Jr.

1991 What is the Use of Plantation Archaeology? Historical Archaeology 25(3):94-107.

Howson, Jeane E.

1990 Social Relations and Material Culture: A Critique of the Archaeology of

Plantation Slavery. Historical Archaeology 24(4):78-91.
Thomas, Brian W.

1995 Source Criticism and the Interpretation of African-American Sites. Southeastern

Archaeology 14(2):149-157.
Heath, Barbara J. and Amber Bennett

2000 “The little Spots allow’d them”: The Archaeological Study of African-American

Yards. Historical Archaeology 34(2):38-55.
Farnsworth, Paul

2000 Brutality or Benevolence in Plantation Archaeology. International Journal of

Historical Archaeology 4(2):145-158.
Weeks 6 and 7 (Sept 24 - Oct 5)
Babson, David W.

1990 The Archaeology of Racism and Ethnicity on Southern Plantations. Historical

Archaeology 24(4):20-28.
Stine, Linda France

1990 Social Inequality and Turn-of-the-Century Farmsteads: Issues of Class, Status,

Ethnicity, and Race. Historical Archaeology 24(4):37-49.
Orser, Charles E. Jr.

1990 Archaeological Approaches to New World Plantation Slavery. In Archaeological

Method and Theory, vol. 2, edited by Michael B. Schiffer, pp. 111-154. University of

Arizona Press, Tucson.

Orser, Charles E. Jr.

1999 The Challenge of Race to American Historical Archaeology. American

Anthropologist 100(3):661-668.
Epperson, Terrence W.

1999 The Contested Commons: Archaeologies of Race, Repression, and Resistance in

New York City. In Historical Archaeologies of Capitalism, edited by Mark P. Leone and

Parker B. Potter, Jr., pp. 81-110. Plenum Press, New York.

Mullins, Paul

2001 Racializing the Parlor: Race and Victorian Bric-Brac Consumption. In Race and the

Archaeology of Identity, edited by Charles E. Orser, Jr., pp. 158-176. The University of

Utah Press, Salt Lake City.

Brown, Kenneth L.

1994 Material Culture and Community Structure: The Slave and Tenant Community at

Levi Jordan's Plantation, 1848-1892. In Working toward Freedom: Slave Society and

Domestic Economy in the American South, edited by Larry E. Hudson, Jr., pp. 95-118.

Weeks 8 and 9 (Oct 8-Oct 19)
Leland Ferguson “The Cross is a Magic Sign”: Marks on Eighteenth Century Bowls in

South Carolina.

(Chapter 6 in Theresa Singleton’s edited volume)
Christopher R. DeCorse

“Oceans Apart: Africanist Perspectives of Diaspora Archaeology.”

(Chapter 7 in Theresa Singleton’s edited volume)

Orser, Charles E. Jr.

1994 The Archaeology of African-American Slave Religion in the Antebellum South.

Cambridge Archaeological Journal 4 (1):33-45.

Stine, Linda France, Melanie A. Cabak, and Mark D. Groover

1996 Blue Beads as African-American Cultural Symbols. Historical Archaeology

Leone, Mark P. and Gladys-Marie Fry

2001 Spirit Management among Americans of African Descent. In Race and the

Archaeology of Identity, edited by Charles E. Orser Jr., pp. 143-157. The University of

Utah Press, Salt Lake City.

Young, Amy

1996 Archaeological Evidence of African-Style Ritual and Healing Practices in the

Upland South. Tennessee Anthropologist, 21(2):139-155.
Wilkie, Laurie A.

1995 Magic and Empowerment on the Plantation: An Archaeological Consideration of

African-American World View. Southeastern Archaeology, 14(2): 136-157.
Davidson, James M.

2004 Rituals Captured in Context and Time: Charm Use in North Dallas Freedman’s

Town (1869-1907), Dallas, Texas. Historical Archaeology 38(2):22-54.
Weeks 10 and 11 (Oct 22 - Nov 2)
Bolton, H. Carrington

1891 Decoration of Graves of Negroes in South Carolina. Journal of American Folk-

Lore 4 (12):214.
Ingersoll, Ernest

1892 Decoration of Negro Graves. Journal of American Folk-Lore 5 (16):68-69.

Combes, John D.

1974 Ethnography, Archaeology and Burial Practices Among Coastal South Carolina

Blacks. The Conference on Historic Site Archaeology Papers 1972, Volume 7. The

Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of South Carolina, Columbia.

Garmon, James C.

1994 Viewing the Color Line through the Material Culture of Death. Historical

Archaeology 28(3):74-93.
Blakely, Robert L., and Lane A. Beck

1982 Bioarchaeology in the Urban Context. In Archaeology of Urban America: The

Search for Pattern and Process, edited by Roy S. Dickens, Jr., pp. 175-207. Academic

Press, New York.

Harrington, Spencer P. M.

1993 Bones and Bureaucrats: New York's Great Cemetery Imbroglio. Archaeology 46(2):30-38.

Davidson, James M., Jerome Rose, Myron Gutmann, Michael Haines, Cindy Condon,

and Keith Condon

2002 The Quality of African-American Life in The Old Southwest Near the Turn of the

20th Century. In The Backbone of History: Health and Nutrition in the Western

Hemisphere, edited by Richard Steckel, pp. 226-277. Cambridge University Press,


McCarthy, John P.

1997 Material Culture and the Performance of Sociocultural Identity: Community,

Ethnicity, and Agency in the Burial Practices at the First African Baptist Church

Cemeteries, Philadelphia, 1810-1841. In American Material Culture: The Shape of the

Field, eds. Ann Smart Martin and J. Ritchie Garrison, pp. 359-379. Henry Francis du

Pont Winterthur Museum, Winterthur, Delaware.

Weeks 12 through 13 (Nov 5 - Nov 16)
Franklin, Maria

1997 “Power to the People”: Sociopolitics and the Archaeology of Black Americans.

Historical Archaeology 31(3):36-50.
Franklin, Maria

1997 Why are there so few black American archaeologists? Antiquity: an international

journal of expert archaeology 71(274).
Barile, Kerri S.

2004 Race, the National Register, and Cultural Resource Management: Creating an

Historical Context for Postbellum Sites. Historical Archaeology 38(1):90-100.
Davidson, James M.

2004 “Living Symbols of their Lifelong Struggles”: In Search of the home and

household in the Heart of Freedman's Town, Dallas, Texas. In Household Chores and

Household Choices: Theorizing the domestic Sphere in Historical Archaeology, edited by

Kerri S. Barile and Jamie C. Brandon, pp. 75-106. The University of Alabama Press,


McDavid, Carol

1997 Descendants, Decisions, and Power: The Public Interpretation of the Archaeology

of the Levi Jordan Plantation. Historical Archaeology 31(3):114-131.

McCarthy, John

1996 Who Owns These Bones?: Descendant Communities and Partnerships in the

Excavation and Analysis of Historic Cemetery Sites in New York and Philadelphia.

Public Archaeology Review 4(2):3-12.
Patten, M. Drake

1997 Cheers of Protest? The Public, the Post, and the Parable of Learning. Historical

Archaeology 31(3):131-139.
La Roche, Cheryl and Michael L. Blakey

1997 Seizing Intellectual Power: The Dialogue at the New York African Burial

Ground. Historical Archaeology 31(3):84-106.
Epperson, Terrence W.

2004 Critical Race Theory and the Archaeology of the African Diaspora. Historical

Archaeology 38(1):101-108.
Edward A. Chappell

“Museums and American Slavery”

(Chapter 12 in Theresa Singleton’s edited volume)
Streich, Gregory W.

2002 Is There a Right to Forget? Historical Injustices, Race, Memory and Identity. New

Political Science 24(4):525-542.
Joseph, J. W.

2004 Resistance and Compliance: CRM and the Archaeology of the African Diaspora.

Historical Archaeology 38(1):18-31.
Weeks 14 through 15 (Nov 19 – Nov 30)
Early 20th Century Studies – Tales from Freedman’s Cemetery.
Davidson, James M.

2007 “Resurrection Men” in Dallas: The Illegal Use of Black Bodies as Medical

Cadavers (1900-1907). International Journal of Historical Archaeology 11 (3):193-220.
Davidson, James M.

2008 Identity and Violent Death: Contextualizing Lethal Gun Violence within the

African-American Community of Dallas, TX (1900-1907). The Journal of Social

Archaeology 8(3):321-356.

Davidson, James M.

2012 Encountering the Ex-Slave Reparations Movement from the Grave: The National

Industrial Council and National Liberty Party, 1901-1907. The Journal of African

American History 97(1-2):13-38.

Week 16 (Dec 3 – Dec 5)
Rosewood: A Potential Archaeology
Williams, John A.

1968 The Long Hot Summers of Yesteryear. The History Teacher 1(3):9-23.

Dye, T. Thomas

1996 Rosewood, Florida: The Destruction of an African American Community. The

Historian 58(3):605-622.
James M. Davidson and Edward Tennant

2008 A Potential Archaeology of Rosewood, Florida: The Process of Remembering a

Community and a Tragedy. The SAA Archaeological Record, the Magazine of the

Society for American Archaeology (January) 8(1):13-16.

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