African Burial Ground, NYC

The instructions for the paper are to write an original research paper, approximately 4,000 to 5,000 words in length, based on primary source research based on a historical question. The paper must include your chosen topic and the research question you will pursue, a discussion of how historians have treated the topic in the past, a discussion of your sources and methods, and a set of hypotheses & conclusions based on primary research using concrete examples with thick descriptions. It requires Chicago style and bibliography with approximately 20 sources.

Hypothesize about the lives of enslaved Africans in colonial New York from the evidence (material objects & mortuary remains) uncovered at the African Burial Ground – use the burials to understand that time and place. The research question could be along the lines of how did the existence of slavery, what historical factors shaped their mortuary and funeral practices? How was their communal life and cultural expression effected? How did they create a life for themselves in spite of it? What cultural and social resources did they use?

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Key primary sources:
Link to African Burial Ground:

The New York African Burial Ground: Unearthing the African Presence in Colonial New York. Howard University Press: Washington DC, 2009. A set of reports for the archaeological site that directly examine this subject and anchor the focus of the paper.

New York Historical Society. “Slavery in New York” Exhibit, New York, 2005.

Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery

It has hundreds of contextualized objects.

Key secondary sources:

Brown, Vincent. The Reaper’s Garden: Death and Power in the World of Atlantic Slavery. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2008. This is excellent on this for Jamaica, and his work can be a model and inspiration.

Key will also be the work of Erik Seeman, including, Reassessing the “Sankofa Symbol” in New York’s African Burial Ground. The William and Mary Quarterly 67, no. 1 (2010): 101-22.

and possibly Michael Gomez, Exchanging our Country Marks.

Sweet, James H. Recreating Africa Culture, Kinship, and Religion in the African-Portuguese World, 1441-1770. Vancouver, BC: Crane Library, 2015.

Samford, Patricia. “The Archaeology of African-American Slavery and Material Culture.” The William and Mary Quarterly, vol. 53, no. 1, 1996, pp. 87–114. JSTOR,

Handler, Jerome S., and Frederick W. Lange. Plantation Slavery in Barbados: An Archaeological and Historical Investigation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1978. Introduction only.

Genovese, Eugene D. Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made. New York: Pantheon Book, 1974.

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