Books on Afro-American and Afro-Caribbean Archaeology

A few months ago I got through the post the 2017 archaeology catalogue for Eurospan University Presses. Amongst some of the fascinating books listed were several on the archaeology of Black communities in America and the Caribbean. As you’ll see, they’re at prices well beyond what ordinary readers can afford. They’re really available only to the rich and academic libraries. If you’ve got access to one near you, then I recommend you try to borrow it from there. Some universities do lend to members of the public in the summer holidays when most of the students have gone home. It might also be possible to get it on interlibrary loan, although this can also mean a long wait and isn’t cheap either. The last time I enquired about it at Bristol, I was told the price was £5 per book. Which means that if you want to borrow more than one, it can become very expensive very quickly. Dam’ Tories and their cuts! I don’t know, but it may also be that some of these books may be available in PDF form over the Net at a cheaper rate. This isn’t mentioned in the catalogue, but it might be so. Alternatively, you could see if there are secondhand copies on Amazon. On the other hand, it might be worth waiting to see if a paperback edition comes out, which may be cheaper.

Here are the books I found interesting, and the blurbs for them in the catalogue.

Archaeologies of African American Life in the Upper Mid-Atlantic, edited by Michael J. Gall & Richard F. Veit
9780817319656 Hardback £74.50

Provides insights into the archaeology and cultural history of African-American life from a collection of sites in the northeastern US. This volume explores the archaeology of African-American life and cultures in the Upper Mid-Atlantic region, suing sites dating from the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries.

University of Alabama Press.

Before the Pioneers: Indians, Settlers, Slaves and the Founding of Miami, Andre F. Krank, 9780813054513, hardback £18.50

Formed seemingly out of steel, glass, and concrete with millions of residents from around the globe, Miami has ancient roots that can be hard to imagine today. This work takes readers back through forgotten eras to the stories of the people who shaped the land along the Miami River long before most modern histories of the city begin.

University of Florida Press.

Honoring Ancestors in Sacred Space: The Archaeology of an Eighteenth Century African Bahamian Cemetery, Grace Turner, 9781683400202, hardback £79.50.

Throughout life, black Africans in the Bahamas possessed material items of various degrees of importance to them and within their culture. St. Matthews was a cemetery in Nassau at the water’s edge – or sometimes slightly below. This project emerged from archaeological excavations at this site to identify and recover materials associated with the interned before the area was completely redeveloped.

University Press of Florida.

The Rosewood Massacre: An archaeology and History of Intersectional Violence, Edward Gonzalez Tennant. 9780813056784, £84.95.

Investigates the 1923 massacre that devastated the predominantly African American community of Rosewood, Florida. The author draws on cutting edge GIS technology, census data, artefacts from excavations, and archaeological theory to explore the local circumstances and broader socio-political power structures that led to the massacre.

University Press of Florida.

Simplicity, Equality and Slavery: An Archaeology of Quakerism in the British Virgin Islands, 1740-1780, John M. Chenoweth, 9781683400110 hardback, £79.50.

Inspired by the Quaker ideals of simplicity, equality, and peace, a group of White planters formed a community in the British Virgin Islands during the eighteenth century. Here, the author examines how the community navigated the contradictions of Quakerism and plantation ownership.

University Press of Florida.

These books sound very interesting. There have been a lot of research into the homes and communities of Black Americans over the past couple of decades. They’ve been excavated in New York, and also the slave communities owned by the Founding Fathers, like Benjamin Franklin. In the case of excavating cemeteries, it’s obviously a particularly sensitive area, and the archaeologists involved have obviously had to be particularly careful in their negotiations of the host Black community and the surviving relatives of the deceased. As you should when excavating any human remains.

From what I gather from reading elsewhere, cemeteries and burial grounds are of particular importance in Afro-Caribbean culture, where it’s associated not only with personal heritage and family history and identity but also occupation of the land.

I remember correctly, the 1923 Rosewood massacre was White supremacist pogrom against the Black community in Rosewood, their politicians and their White supporters and allies. This was before McCarthyism, when the American Left was still very strong, and the Republican party the more left-wing of the two main political parties. The town’s mayor was Black, and the town council included Socialists. Even the Republicans issued a statement condemning the treatment of the poor, the corrupt corporate politics keeping them there, and declaring healthcare and education a right. Obviously the Conservatives and the Klan really couldn’t tolerate that, and stirred up resentment until it boiled over into organised violence.

As for the Quaker plantation in the British Virgin Islands, the Quakers very early denounced and condemned slavery as fundamentally opposed to their principles. John Fox, the sect’s founder, denounced and by their laws no member could own slaves. Nevertheless, the acceptance of slavery was so deeply ingrained in European society, that its rejection was not easy for many to accept. And although they were condemned from owning or dealing in slaves, some Quakers did make their cash through supplying the slave ships. If you want to know more about the Quakers, their ideals in this period, then I recommend you read David Dabydeen’s history of the Quakers in the 17th and 18th centuries, Sugar and Slaves.

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2 Responses to “Books on Afro-American and Afro-Caribbean Archaeology”

  1. Florence Says:

    I had a £20 book token as a present this year, and had already decided to start a Labour Party branch lending library with my own book collection, and will put this towards buying books for communal use too. Our libraries have been decimated like in so many places, but we have the added problems of small scattered rural communities who lost the accessible travelling libraries long ago.

    We don’t even have a decent second hand book trade down here, and as one who actually lived over a second hand book shop as a child I feel this lack keenly. I refuse to buy used (any) books from Amazon, but there are a number of smaller internet dealers I use.

    I really like the sound of those books you highlight here for myself, but I think I will look for more basic Labour movement stuff for my branch in the wilds of West Wales, as few have any interest in the colonial / slave trading politics here and abroad. Of course as soon as your own book is ready I will get copies for our branches PE!

    (BTW, did you get the archaeology and neoliberalism book from Oxbow? I forgot to put in an order! Wondered if that was worth the rather large price tag. )

    • Beastrabban Says:

      Well done, Florence, and all the best with your plan to start a Labour Party branch lending library with your personal book collection. and I appreciate your refusal to buy anything from Amazon.

      I’m outraged by the way the libraries and the other public services have been absolutely decimated by the Tories, but it could backfire on them. In the 1930s many of the Socialist parties in Europe had massive memberships, because they offered their members complete welfare and leisure services that were not provided by industry or the state. The was true of the German SDP, which I think was the largest single party in the Reichstag. This offered a complete range of services, including holidays. There was something similar in the Labour party over here. Older members of my family used to be part of their local Labour Party choirs. If you cut away people’s support in the name of capitalism and the state, then they won’t become nice, self-supporting capitalists, like Maggie hoped. They’ll turn inward and become even more alienated and radical. This happened to elements in the British Muslim community, as the mosques through the Zakat, the alms tax, offered their own unemployment relief and community care.

      As for the situation in West Wales, it’s the same all over rural Britain, and increasingly in our towns as well. Bristol has cut back on its library services. It’s been doing this for years, and has several times got in the pages of Private Eye because of it.

      I didn’t buy the book on archaeology and neoliberalism in the end, because it was well out of my price range, and I’m not that interested in the subject. Perhaps if it was a little cheaper.

      I am very pleased and honoured that you wish to order my projected book on the horrors of western imperialism and support for Fascist dictators around the world for your planned library!

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