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Archaeologists find hidden African side to noted 1780s Md. building
University of Maryland ^ | 2-14-2011 | Neil Tickner

Posted on 02/15/2011 4:39:43 AM PST by Pharmboy

Evidence of slaves' technical skills and religion at enlightenment greenhouse

IMAGE: In West African practice, placing metal and pointed objects at the doorway helps deter harmful spirits from entering. These were found buried at the entrance to the slave quarters, until...

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – One of North America's most famous Revolutionary-era buildings – a lone-surviving testament to an Enlightenment ideal – has a hidden West African face, University of Maryland archaeologists have discovered.

Their excavation at the 1785 Wye “Orangery” on Maryland's Eastern Shore – the only 18th century greenhouse left in North America – reveals that African American slaves played a sophisticated, technical role in its construction and operation. They left behind tangible cultural evidence of their involvement and spiritual traditions.

Frederick Douglass, who lived there as a young man, made it famous through his autobiography. But the team concludes that he failed to appreciate the slaves’ full contribution.

"For years, this famous Enlightenment structure has been recognized for its European qualities, but it has a hidden African face that we've unearthed," says University of Maryland archaeologist Mark Leone, who led the excavation. "Concealed among the bricks of the furnace that controlled the greenhouse temperature, we found embedded a symbol used in West African spirit practice. An African American slave built the furnace, and left an historic signature."

His team also found African charms buried at the entrance to a part of the Wye greenhouse that once served as living quarters for the slaves who maintained the building.

"Ironically, these African symbols distinguish this building from its more elaborate European counterparts, and give it a unique American character," Leone adds, who has uncovered other evidence of African spirit practice through his Archaeology in Annapolis project.

AFRICAN AMERICAN CONTRIBUTIONS: The slaves were pioneers in early U.S. agricultural experimentation, the new research concludes. They did far more than manual labor, performing work that today might be conducted by skilled lab technicians, though under far different conditions.

"These greenhouses were for agricultural and horticultural experimentation in 18th century America, and African American slaves played a far more significant and technical role in their operation than they've been given credit for," Leone says. "This work required sophistication and skill, and the slaves provided it." For example, slaves began experimenting there with wild broccoli and other greens, Seneca snakeroot as a cure-all, ginger root for tea, buckbean as an analgesic and antiemetic, and hardy bananas.

IMAGE: This is Wye Greenhouse as it looked and operated 1785 to 1820.

EUROPEAN CONTRIBUTIONS: Leone says that Enlightenment ideals of beauty, natural order and scientific understanding made greenhouses important to colonial-era estates in America and across Europe. His excavation at the Wye greenhouse revealed the European tastes of its owners.

RARE POLLEN ANALYSIS: Based on an analysis of centuries-old pollen recovered from the site – a rarely used procedure in historical archaeology – plus written historical records, Leone says the greenhouse started with a range of flowering plants, shrubs, and medicinal herbs. By the 1820s, more exotic plants were cultivated, including lemon and orange trees, and possibly tubs of pond lilies. This corresponds to Frederick Douglass' descriptions in his autobiography.

The Wye "Orangery" stood on the thriving Lloyd Plantation, a large operation with several hundred slaves. The property, first settled by Edward Lloyd I in the 1650s, is still owned by his descendents. The family has encouraged the excavation for the historical and scientific knowledge it can provide.

FREDERICK DOUGLASS: The building's fame stems, in large part, from the garden's description by Frederick Douglass. In his "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave" (1845), Douglass wrote: "Colonel Lloyd kept a large and finely cultivated garden, which afforded almost constant employment for four men, besides the chief gardener," he recalled two decades after leaving the plantation. "This garden was probably the greatest attraction of the place. During the summer months, people came from far and near – from Baltimore, Easton, and Annapolis – to see it. It abounded in fruits of almost every description, from the hardy apple of the north to the delicate orange of the south."

Writing in 1855 ("My Bondage and My Freedom"), Douglass identified the greenhouse chief as Mr. McDermott, the "scientific gardener imported from Scotland," and again, noting his team.

Pollen analysis confirms the broad sweep of plant life grown in the greenhouse, as Douglass describes it. In turn, his writings provide historical markers in the evolution of the greenhouse. But the total archaeological record suggests Douglass did not recognize the skilled work the greenhouse slaves performed, Leone concludes.

SPECIFIC FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS

Slaves constructed the brick and mortar furnace that regulated temperature in the greenhouse. Evidence for this comes from the excavation's discovery of a concealed West African-style charm cemented among the bricks at the rear of the furnace where it connects to ductwork – a spot where no one would see it, since spirit practice was conducted in secret. The African America builder of the furnace had placed a stone pestle there to control spirits. This corresponds to the Yoruba practice of placing an old, sharp object from the ground there, Leone says. The pestle was discovered by Drake Witte, who rebuilt the furnace and repaired the heating conduits. Slaves lived in the greenhouse, where they could operate the heating system – the "hypocaust" – and maintain the heat, light and water required by the plants. The team recovered evidence of domestic life in one of the greenhouse's three rooms. Most recently the area has been used as a potting shed. But, buried underground were fragments of earthenware and other domestic objects. Leone says the loft in the room was likely used for sleeping. By the door, the team also unearthed another set of West African charms – a coin and arrowheads – placed there to manage spirits. Systematic experiments were conducted in the 18th and 19th centuries to determine optimum light, temperature and water requirements of exotic plants, and slaves took an active role in this work. "These buildings were not only for beauty or display," Leone says, drawing on historic records and modern scholarship. "Plantation owners like the Lloyds also were conducting agricultural experiments out of economic necessity and by the temperament of the times. They wanted to have access to exotic plants, and they wanted to learn how to make them thrive. They approached this in a systematic way, and it's no stretch to consider this scientific experimentation."

Furnace operators – the slaves – would have had to monitor conditions and maintain temperatures within the recommended range of 42 to 54 degrees F, Leone adds. Working under a Scots gardener, they would have to read the thermometer, understand each plant's requirements, control the windows and monitor the furnace. The knowledge and skill acquired from these experiments became one of the slaves' possessions, and helped createan African American tradition of gardening.

IMAGE: This prehistoric pestle was cemented among the bricks at the back of the furnace. Leone identifies it as an African charm put there by the slave who built the furnace. Click here for more information.

Harrison Roberts, born a slave at Wye House, continued the gardening tradition there and died in the 20th century. He mastered the skills while a slave and continued to use them after freedom. "The knowledge didn't just go away – it endured longer than the plantation system," Leone concludes, based on an oral history from the 1960s.

Evolution from greenhouse to orangery – pollen analysis and Frederick Douglass tell the story. In the late 18th century, the greenhouse had a range of flowering plants, shrubs, and medicinal herbs. Over time, the plant arrays expanded, and by the 1820s citrus and more exotic species were cultivated. Lemons and oranges grew there, as did members of the rose family, lily, saxifrage, phlox, iris and members of the nightshade family. Evidence for this comes from pollen excavated from the greenhouse by the team and analyzed by specialists. Historic records and descriptions also supplement the picture, especially the autobiographical writings of Frederick Douglass, who spent his early years as a slave on the Lloyd Plantation. Look of the greenhouse: Anything in the greenhouse would have been potted or in a trough of some sort, and these would have been in tiers or placed on risers, Leone explains. The plants would probably have been kept in groups, which was the preferred technique shown in gardening manuals at the time. The 1785 greenhouse was built on top of an earlier one. Around 1770, Edward Lloyd IV built his first greenhouse. In 1784 or 1785 he started again – the building that stands today, equipped with a hypocaust. At Leone's request, Bryan Haley, of the Center for Archaeological Research at the University of Mississippi (now of the Tulane Department of Anthropology), used extensive soundings from a magnetometer and ground penetrating radar to discover evidence of the larger, earlier structure. Haley's analysis showed what may be the underground remains of structures attached to the original greenhouse, which did not have a heating system within it. This would have been a garden pavilion that used either the heat of the sun or the heat from piles of dung kept inside. POLLEN ANALYSIS

To analyze the traces of old pollen found buried in the greenhouse soil, Leone consulted with a palynologist. It's the first time the technique has been used on an historic U.S. greenhouse, Leone says. Research scientist Heather Trigg at the University of Massachusetts, Boston's Fiske Center for Archaeological Research was able to identify families of plants grown in the greenhouse. "The technique often does not permit the identification of specific species," Trigg explains. "Pollen from the rose family was identified in the soil of the greenhouse, for example, meaning that rose, strawberries, or some wild plants, such as cinquefoil, were grown there."

LLOYD DESCENDANTS

The Orangery remains active today, maintained by descendants of Edward Lloyd IV, who first started construction on it even before the Revolutionary War. The excavation was launched at the request of the family, and preceded structural work to maintain the building.

"I'm committed to preserving the history of this building and the entire estate," says Mrs. R.C. Tilghman, an 11th generation descendant of Lloyd. "This land has always been a part of my life, and its preservation comes as a duty."

The Tilghmans permitted Leone to conduct an earlier series of excavations on the property, which uncovered slave quarters and other buildings.

SLAVE ARCHAEOLOGY AND THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND

Three of Leone's graduate students, Matthew Cochran, Stephanie Duensing, and John Blair, conducted the Orangery excavation. For the past three decades, Leone has focused much of his work in nearby Annapolis, launching the Archaeology in Annapolis program. "We've rewritten Maryland history in a number of cases by unearthing the activities of African Americans," he reflects. "The formative years of Maryland's history were shaped by a blending of European and African culture, and this helps us understand our modern experience."

### Greenhouse Images: #1: The Wye Orangery as it appeared 1785-1820 http://newsdesk.umd.edu/images/vibrant/greenhouse_graphic.jpg (Credit: Brian Payne/UMD)

#2: Evidence of African Spirit Practice – Stone Pestle Hidden in Greenhouse Oven http://newsdesk.umd.edu/images/vibrant/greenhouse_pestle_lab.jpg This prehistoric pestle was found cemented among the bricks at the back of the furnace. Leone identifies it as an African charm put there by the slave who built the furnace. (Credit: UMD)

#3: Stone pestle as found during excavation http://newsdesk.umd.edu/images/vibrant/greehouse_pestle_situ.jpg (Credit: UMD)

#4: African charms buried at doorway to greenhouse living quarters http://newsdesk.umd.edu/images/vibrant/greenhouse_charms.jpg In West African practice, placing metal and pointed objects at the doorway helps deter harmful spirits from entering. These were found buried at the entrance to the slave quarters, until now known only as a potting shed – its most recent use. (Credit: UMD)

#5: Part of the Library of Congress Collection of the Orangery. http://newsdesk.umd.edu/images/vibrant/greenhouse_loc.jpg Because of its age and uniqueness, the Orangery has been frequently photographed, but, until now, never systematically examined by archaeologists.

#6: Greenhouse as it appears today. http://newsdesk.umd.edu/images/vibrant/greenhouse_snow.jpg (Credit: UMD)

#8: Greenhouse interior under excavation http://newsdesk.umd.edu/images/vibrant/greenhouse_interiordig.jpg (Credit: UMD)

#9: Team at work at the greenhouse. http://newsdesk.umd.edu/images/vibrant/greenhouse_excavation.jpg


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; US: Maryland
KEYWORDS: africanamericans; colonialhistory; horticulture
Thanks to SunkenCiv for alerting me to this interesting find and story.
1 posted on 02/15/2011 4:39:47 AM PST by Pharmboy
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To: Pharmboy
American slaves played a sophisticated, technical role

Meaning: they put pointed objects near the doorway, in order to keep harmful spirits from entering the building.

2 posted on 02/15/2011 4:44:39 AM PST by ClearCase_guy (BO + MB = BOMB -- The One will make sure they get one.)
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To: indcons; Chani; thefactor; blam; aculeus; ELS; Doctor Raoul; mainepatsfan; timpad; ...

RevWar/Colonial History/General Washington ping list...

3 posted on 02/15/2011 4:45:23 AM PST by Pharmboy (What always made the state a hell has been that man tried to make it heaven-Hoelderlin)
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To: ClearCase_guy
I think they were referring to the actual construction rather than the superstitions they brought from Africa. And, they were no different than other peoples who brought their own superstitions with them. My grandparents certainly did...
4 posted on 02/15/2011 4:49:27 AM PST by Pharmboy (What always made the state a hell has been that man tried to make it heaven-Hoelderlin)
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To: ClearCase_guy

“Meaning: they put pointed objects near the doorway, in order to keep harmful spirits from entering the building”

Oh that never works.


5 posted on 02/15/2011 4:52:27 AM PST by AppyPappy (If you aren't part of the solution, there is good money to be made prolonging the problem.)
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To: Pharmboy

There are many remarkable colonial treasurers on the Eastern shore of MD. Both sides of my family settled there in the mid 1600’s.
I once located an ancestral home fron the 1800’s buried deep in the woods south of Cambridge in an area known as Church Creek. It was being used as a hunting lodge but had fallen into severe disrepair.
The region where my ancestors settled after leaving the Jamestown colony is still today called World’s End. It is a mosquito infested swamp with virtually no residents.


6 posted on 02/15/2011 4:56:08 AM PST by Louis Foxwell (For love of Sarah, our country and the American Way of Life.)
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To: AppyPappy
“Meaning: they put pointed objects near the doorway, in order to keep harmful spirits from entering the building”

You think we could try that at the White House? :-O

7 posted on 02/15/2011 5:00:07 AM PST by ThunderSleeps (Stop obama now! Stop the hussein - insane agenda!)
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To: Pharmboy

Interesting but the purpose/ownership of the items are up for grabs. Too much speculation but historians love to put a story to their finds...right or wrong.


8 posted on 02/15/2011 5:04:57 AM PST by Sacajaweau
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To: Pharmboy

Its sounds to me the the black man is responsible for GMO’s 150 years ago experimenting with broccoli.


9 posted on 02/15/2011 5:07:10 AM PST by jy1297
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To: ClearCase_guy

Obamafaces or gargoyles? Same thing?


10 posted on 02/15/2011 5:08:25 AM PST by Hardraade (I want gigaton warheads now!!)
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To: Sacajaweau

No argument there...it’s all a good starting point for conversation, as long as some facts are sprinkled in.


11 posted on 02/15/2011 5:15:54 AM PST by Pharmboy (What always made the state a hell has been that man tried to make it heaven-Hoelderlin)
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To: Pharmboy
Great story, thanks for posting!
12 posted on 02/15/2011 5:19:37 AM PST by wagglebee ("A political party cannot be all things to all people." -- Ronald Reagan, 3/1/75)
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To: wagglebee

You are most welcome...


13 posted on 02/15/2011 5:28:04 AM PST by Pharmboy (What always made the state a hell has been that man tried to make it heaven-Hoelderlin)
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To: ClearCase_guy

Geez.... you say that like being ascared of haints ain’t sophisticated.

For shame...


14 posted on 02/15/2011 5:32:30 AM PST by Lee'sGhost (Johnny Rico picked the wrong girl!)
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To: Pharmboy

That first item looks like an indian arrowhead, which can be found buried all over the place.


15 posted on 02/15/2011 5:39:56 AM PST by mac_truck ( Aide toi et dieu t aidera)
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To: Pharmboy

The annual bombardment of stories rehashing black history begins.

It only lasts 365 days each year.

Maybe if people start spending a little time looking ahead instead of 100% focused in the rear view mirror they might realize they are letting year after year of opportunity slip by.


16 posted on 02/15/2011 5:41:01 AM PST by Iron Munro ("Our country's founders cherished liberty, not democracy." -- Ron Paul)
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To: ThunderSleeps
It's almost always been too late to do that. Can't even contain them there now.

The magicks of golf and AF-1 are way too great.

17 posted on 02/15/2011 5:45:45 AM PST by Calvin Locke
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To: Pharmboy

Hogwash.


18 posted on 02/15/2011 5:52:32 AM PST by Lion Den Dan
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To: mac_truck

It most likely is an American Indian arrowhead, which would have been fairly common and available during that era. The slaves probably encountered them daily, in the soil and maybe from the makers themselves. Putting them in the entrance-way was the African custom, not the artifacts themselves....


19 posted on 02/15/2011 6:01:46 AM PST by Red Badger (Want to be surprised? Google your own name. Want to have fun? Google your friend's names.....)
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To: AppyPappy

Yeh, but it keeps the elephants away.


20 posted on 02/15/2011 6:02:11 AM PST by Sacajaweau
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To: Pharmboy

yesirree, that sure shows some advanced technical skills and sophistication

why, these folks really DID build the pyramids and fly around them too

sarc

Sorry Pharm the race card done xpired for me


21 posted on 02/15/2011 6:08:17 AM PST by silverleaf (All that is necessary for evil to succeed, is that good men do nothing)
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To: ClearCase_guy

IIRC, I think it was Arthur C. Clark, the late SF writer, who said he was amazed by people who would condemn primitives for beating on drums to scare away evil spirits are the same people who would honk their automobile horns in an effort clear a traffic jam.................


22 posted on 02/15/2011 6:08:17 AM PST by Red Badger (Want to be surprised? Google your own name. Want to have fun? Google your friend's names.....)
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To: Pharmboy

Italian-American people who built my house threw baby booties behind a wall they sealed up, there were bus tokens and bingo tickets under the floor boards, and in the teenage boy’s room there was a skin magazine with pages stuck together hidden in a dropped ceiling panel, since the Italians do many things in secret. I’m humiliated not to have contacted a leading Italian Studies professor to document this “hidden Italian face” and present his findings on Columbus Day.

Not.


23 posted on 02/15/2011 6:09:55 AM PST by Albion Wilde (Government does nothing as economically as the private sector. - Ronald Reagan)
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To: ClearCase_guy

No doubt this will be spun into further evidence that Africa is the seat of all western civilization, and that we owe all we have today to the genius of black people.


24 posted on 02/15/2011 6:16:38 AM PST by IronJack (=)
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To: Pharmboy

So the mule that pulls the plow gets credit for the discovery of agriculture?


25 posted on 02/15/2011 6:29:21 AM PST by Conan the Conservative (Crush the liberals, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of the hippies.)
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To: Pharmboy
In West African practice, placing metal and pointed objects at the doorway helps deter harmful spirits from entering.

My gun is metal and shoots pointed objects, I never knew I had anything in common with West Africans.

26 posted on 02/15/2011 6:35:07 AM PST by Graybeard58 (Of course Obama loves his country. The thing is, Sarah loves mine.)
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To: Pharmboy

Interesting. Thanks for posting.


27 posted on 02/15/2011 6:46:25 AM PST by RedMDer (Stimulus... hasn't stimulated ANYTHING but The TEA PARTY!!! - Sarah Palin)
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To: ClearCase_guy

One grows used to the frantic press attempts to “discover” early cross-cultural contributions to the “useless and clueless cultural contributions of European White Males” (i.e., everything worthy of note), but this piece, entering into paroxyisms of enthusiasm for what amounts to a few broken stones and bits of chicken bone a la voodoo, is so grotesquely over the top, one suspects the author is mentally unbalanced.


28 posted on 02/15/2011 6:57:00 AM PST by Jack Hammer
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To: Conan the Conservative

LOL, now I have to admit a good chuckle from that!


29 posted on 02/15/2011 9:19:23 AM PST by the OlLine Rebel (Common sense is an uncommon virtue./Technological progress cannot be legislated.)
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To: silverleaf

Actually, I was a little surprised by this article’s presumption of perception of level of skill from slaves.

I’m sure anyone who’s gone to a few estates of colonial times, and listened to the guides/read the info, is aware many of the beautiful carvings of the houses’ decoration were done by “skilled slaves”. That some would have extra skills to be involved in experimentation wouldn’t be too surprising to me.

I wasn’t even aware of this “famous sole colonial greenhouse” not far from the Bay Bridge.


30 posted on 02/15/2011 9:24:26 AM PST by the OlLine Rebel (Common sense is an uncommon virtue./Technological progress cannot be legislated.)
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To: Conan the Conservative; All
Clever quip, but I don't think you're being totally fair; and frankly I'm a bit surprised to see so much negativity about this find.

Nowhere in this article does it say that the Africans designed the house or ran it; as a matter of fact, it mentions a Scotsman by name who oversaw the greenhouse. What it seems to say is that the construction took sophisticated workmen, and this is a well-documented site for African slaves building it and thereafter maintaining its workings--again, something that took sophistication. Perhaps the point of all of this is that slaves did more than just pick cotton or slop hogs.

AFAIC, the Black History Months that sell victimology over and over again fail dismally; I would much rather have the concentration be on the blacks that fought on the Patriot side in the RevWar and how they helped build this country. For example, the wall that gives today's Wall St. its name was--for the most part--built by slaves. Slavery in NY State was legal until 1827, and they evidently did much there as they did elsewhere in this emerging republic.

Cheers, PB

31 posted on 02/15/2011 12:12:18 PM PST by Pharmboy (What always made the state a hell has been that man tried to make it heaven-Hoelderlin)
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To: Pharmboy
Part of the Wye plantation became the conference center where Clinton brokered a deal between Israel and Arafart just before the Intifada flared back up. Elian Gonzalez and his father were there for a few days before being sent back to the Peoples Paradise.

Frederick Douglass wrote of the plantation. Lots of history there.

32 posted on 02/15/2011 12:19:26 PM PST by colorado tanker
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To: Pharmboy; Abundy; Albion Wilde; AlwaysFree; AnnaSASsyFR; bayliving; BFM; cindy-true-supporter; ...

Maryland PING!


33 posted on 02/15/2011 12:25:28 PM PST by Tolerance Sucks Rocks (Valentine's Day: when you buy stuff you can't afford for somebody who won't [NSFW] anyway.)
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To: Pharmboy

“Clever quip, but I don’t think you’re being totally fair; and frankly I’m a bit surprised to see so much negativity about this find.”

I think the negativity results from the wording in the article which seems to exaggerate the role slaves. Rather than say they found evidence that slaves worked to build and maintain the house, we read that the excavation “ reveals that African American slaves played a sophisticated, technical role in its construction and operation. They left behind tangible cultural evidence of their involvement and spiritual traditions.”

Virtually the only evidence of this “sophistication” was the burying charms to ward off evil spirits at various locations. Then we get “AFRICAN AMERICAN CONTRIBUTIONS: The slaves were pioneers in early U.S. agricultural experimentation, the new research concludes. They did far more than manual labor, performing work that today might be conducted by skilled lab technicians, though under far different conditions”. Right, I’m sure they even wore white lab coats made from the cotton they picked themselves. We get this overhyped analysis every February.

IMO, the author of this report shows quite a condescending attitude toward the slaves. He thinks it is a big discovery that slaves they were capable of more than just picking cotton or plowing fields. Of course they were, given the proper training they could do any job a free person could do. Why would he think otherwise unless his assumption was that they were stupid.


34 posted on 02/15/2011 1:42:31 PM PST by Conan the Conservative (Crush the liberals, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of the hippies.)
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To: Pharmboy

Very interesting!


35 posted on 02/15/2011 5:31:48 PM PST by Dr. Scarpetta
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To: colorado tanker

Thanks for your additions to the thread...


36 posted on 02/15/2011 6:07:40 PM PST by Pharmboy (What always made the state a hell has been that man tried to make it heaven-Hoelderlin)
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To: Pharmboy

You’re welcome. This thread got a little hairy, eh?


37 posted on 02/16/2011 4:55:05 PM PST by colorado tanker
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To: colorado tanker

Yes...it did, and that was disappointing. I can, however, understand some of the feelings about the bloviations of the left (esp. academia) which prop up their pet beliefs and prejudices. And certainly, African Americans have “benefited” from some of it; BUT, I would have expected Freepers to be a bit more discriminating and not have so overreacted to this story.


38 posted on 02/16/2011 5:11:46 PM PST by Pharmboy (What always made the state a hell has been that man tried to make it heaven-Hoelderlin)
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