Archaeologists and Descendants Work Together to Give a Voice to Enslaved African Americans

June 2, 2014

23 Graves Discovered; Marked; Researched and Reburied; One Given Face/ Likeness by Police Detective Re-constructionist

10177519_333478413466918_3747105917622276870_nOn a quiet peninsula of Serenity Farm in Charles County, the African American Heritage Society of Charles County, farm owners and archaeologists joined together to remember the lives of enslaved African American men, women, and children, who once lived on the Smith plantation in the late 1700’s/ early 1800’s.  Marked by granite stones, the graves of 23 enslaved African Americans will be formally marked as a cemetery and protected from future development.
While conducting archaeological excavations along MD 231 to find sites associated with  the War of 1812, Maryland State Highway Administration Chief Archaeologist Dr. Julie Schablitsky was invited to excavate an area on Serenity Farm cleared as a result of damage caused by the 2012 derecho.  Initial investigation indicated the discovery of grave sites; believed to be those of African American slaves of then-property owner Henry Arundel Smith.  Of 13 burials excavated, one grave yielded a skull preserved well enough to allow a Baltimore County Police Detective to create a likeness of the individual – a male estimated to be aged between 25-29.  He was found with five copper alloy and pewter buttons indicating that he served as a house servant or other type of skilled worker.
10390272_333476703467089_7852963635947670772_n“As SHA archaeologists, our work often involves discovering important pieces of Maryland history that may have otherwise gone unnoticed, undiscovered,” said Dr. Julie Schablitsky, SHA Chief Archaeologist.  “We are constantly trying to reconstruct history through small things lost and forgotten– this project is special because we found a community of enslaved African Americans who have been lost for over 200 years.   Now it’s our duty to tell their story.”
Representatives from the African American Heritage Society of Charles County including Vice President Mary Louise Webb and Dorothea Smith, SHA Chief Archaeologist Julie Schablitsky, Dr. Dana Kollmann from Towson University, and Serenity Farm owner Franklin Robinson, Jr. and his family joined together in today’s dedication.
“This is simply amazing – words cannot describe the power of this discovery and the reconnection with our heritage,” said Mary Louise Webb, Vice President of the African American Heritage Society of Charles County.
485640_333477856800307_6209183266012407264_nCareful excavation of the remains showed those buried were in clothing or wrapped in shrouds fastened with copper straight pins. Each person, including the infants, were laid to rest in custom made pine coffins. Grave shafts were dug as rectangles, but once a certain depth was reached, the hole was reduced to the size and shape of the coffin. Once the coffins were placed within the grave, a series of wooden slats were placed on the dirt ledge (left from narrowing the hole), thereby creating a vault over the coffin. Wooden markers may have once marked the burials, but have long since decomposed.
“Working together with the community to learn more about the people who lived here more than two hundred years ago is an exercise in community education and healing,” said Serenity Farm Owner Franklin Robinson, Jr. “With the finding here on this property, this important discovery will be protected and preserved for generations yet to come.”
1014318_333478083466951_676576034753190172_nPhysical anthropologists studied what remained of the ancestors. Their bones indicated these individuals worked hard and some even suffered vitamin deficiencies and disease during their childhoods. In many cases, the remains were identified as a man, woman, boy, or girl. Within the year, isotope analysis will reveal the quality of the food they ate and if the enslaved African Americans were from the Chesapeake or if they traveled here from another area such as the southern United States or Africa. It is hoped that DNA results will confirm their ancestry and reveal if those who rest here are buried next to family members.

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8 Responses to Archaeologists and Descendants Work Together to Give a Voice to Enslaved African Americans

  1. JusticeIsServed on June 2, 2014 at 9:03 am

    I can’t wait to see how nasty and rude the comments will get on this one.

    • anonymous on June 2, 2014 at 10:58 am

      This is fascinating. At least they wont be forgotten

    • anonymous on June 2, 2014 at 12:27 pm

      I cant wait for the day u leave race out of everything.

    • ANONYMOUS3 on June 2, 2014 at 2:35 pm

      You are one of the nastiest Racist on here….Some of us know of you.

      • JusticeIsServed on June 3, 2014 at 12:59 pm

        Let me get this straight. YOU are calling ME a racist? And how is that when you’re the one who loves to bash people because you don’t like how they look?

        • anonymous on June 3, 2014 at 2:52 pm

          Dude, seriously grow up. Every post you make in some shape or form involves race or “complexion”. You are rediculous. I am so sick of reading your ignorant posts along with many others. You are nothing but a racist troll. We are so sick of you.

  2. grammar mama on June 2, 2014 at 10:41 am

    I enjoyed reading your article. I must point out (since you used the phrase twice) that “joined together” is redundant. You can’t join apart. You simply join. Sorry, this lesson from my college freshman writing class really stuck with me.

  3. Anonymous on June 2, 2014 at 9:49 pm

    There is always slavery some of us are still in slavery. Slavery in the world control Slavery in the system like the Government programs. They say they will help us when we are in need by their programs like food stamps welfare but all it does is keep us in bondage. The Government programs are nothing Obama care that is another program that is going to enslave the people of this nation trying to control them. I say let break those chain out of the Government control speak out stand up because This nation was found to be We the People not We the Government.