Public Archaeology and the Northampton Slave Quarters: Community Collaboration
Degree awarded: Ph.D. Anthropology. American University
The public has many different views and misconceptions about archaeology. Archaeologists practicing within the subfields of public and community archaeology work towards erasing these misconceptions by conducting collaborative research with descendant populations and community groups. However, this collaborative approach is not at the forefront of all archaeologists' agendas. For some archaeology projects in the United States, the pressures of completing a project on time and within budget becomes the primary focus. It is the importance of collaborative research and community engagement that form the basis of my dissertation.Using the Northampton Slave Quarters and Archaeological Park in Mitchellville, Maryland, I demonstrate the importance of collaborative research. The slave quarters of the Northampton plantation are located on a preserved half-acre parcel of land within a townhouse community in Lake Arbor. The African American descendants of those who lived and worked at Northampton have been active participants of the project since the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission's (M-NCPPC) Archaeology Program began in 1988. The M-NCPPC Archaeology Program not only collaborated with the African American descendants but actively engaged the surrounding communities through outreach projects. Starting with a base in community collaboration, cooperative education, and archaeological ethics, I demonstrate how these concepts are pertinent in archaeological research.Although I argue the Northampton Slave Quarters and Archaeological Park's primary significance revolves around the active descendants, its physical location also played a major roll in its creation. Northampton is located within Prince George's County, a majority African American county, thus they have a majority political voice. Both the descendants and County are advocates for protecting African American resources thus creating a unique situation for this archaeological park. It is through Northampton that I show how collaborative archaeological research not only created an understanding and trust between archaeologists and descendants but has sustained that relationship to this day.
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