Title page for ETD etd-06272008-152925

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Cohen, Jessie Chaiya
Author's Email Address jesscohen818@comcast.net
URN etd-06272008-152925
Title Africanisms and Cultural Modifications: A Study at Southall Quarter, Williamsburg, Virginia
Degree Master of Arts (M.A.)
Department Geography & Anthropology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Rob Mann Committee Co-Chair
Steve Namikas Committee Co-Chair
Miles Richardson Committee Member
Paul Farnsworth Committee Member
  • diasporic studies
  • historical archaeology
  • enslaved African-American archaeology
Date of Defense 2008-06-13
Availability unrestricted
Archaeological studies at sites of enslaved Africans and African-Americans have been intensely undertaken in recent years. In particular, the search for Africanisms and cultural processes has become a common trend within these studies. I analyzed previously recorded investigations of Southall Quarter (44JC969), an eighteenth-century enslaved African and African-American site in James City County, Virginia. Dominating anthropological themes of slave resistance, owner-imposed hegemony, and agentic actions guided my search for Africanisms at Southall Quarter.

I hoped to prove that the distance of the quarters from Southall’s residence and therefore the lax owner supervision provided the enslaved inhabitants with opportunities to express their West African culture. The appearance and material fill of subfloor pits and the architectural layout and composition were surveyed in order to assess West Africanisms (or lack thereof). My analyses of subfloor pits and architecture determined that even with the distance from the owner’s residence the enslaved inhabitants of Southall Quarter did not materially express an abundance of West Africanism. While one subfloor pit did demonstrate similarities to West African ancestor shrines, the remaining findings were demonstrative of an ongoing African-American creolization process. Agentic actions allowed by the lax owner supervision seems to have been more dominant than outright resistance of hegemonizing forces.

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