Uneven Landscapes, Uneven Histories


Seen in Ft. Worth

Swampscapes traveled to Ft. Worth, TX, last week for the 2017 Society for Historical Archaeology Conference.  It snowed.  In Texas.  Really.

Together with maroon scholar and University of Florida Phd student Liz Ibarrola, we presented a paper “Uneven Landscapes, Uneven Histories: Maroons in the American Historical Narrative.”  Liz studies the role of maroons in slowing US expansionism in Florida.  We’ve both noticed how the histories of maroons in Virginia and in Florida are given short shrift in common or popular tellings of the US American story.  So, we asked

“are there points in the highlights reel of US history many people carry in their minds that we can connect with in order to demonstrate the importance of marronage in the history of the United States? Can we as archaeologists mobilize these moments where the interconnectedness of marronage and other themes of US history come close to the surface in order to draw Maroon lives out of the margins of history and turn public attention to the contributions of hidden African and African-American people?”

Liz pointed out how the Spanish granted land rights to escaped slaves who helped defend their territory from the British.  Later, during the War of 1812, the British themselves recruited maroons to the fort at Prospect Bluff to defend against the US.  These Maroon settlement were “seen as a very real threat to the regional plantation system” and to Southern slavery.

For the Dismal, I highlighted George Washington’s Dismal Plantation whence two men called Tom and Lewis marooned in the Swamp for many years, and of two Revolutionary War incidents.  The Battle of Great Bridge and Dismal Swamp maroons even make a (very, very brief) appearance in the 2016 version of Roots.

By picking up these threads where maroon history intersects with well-known historical characters and events, we aim to “build deeper, more complex narratives” while also challenging the popular narratives.

“Maroons existed in the hidden and marginalized spaces of the colonial landscape and today, they remain marginalized in the figurative landscape of history. Maroon archaeology, then, has the capacity, and indeed the responsibility, to bring an unfamiliar story to the public.”

I’ll post the full paper over at academia.edu.


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