Bringing back the Community: Archaeology of an Early 19th Century Enslaved Community at James Madison’s Montpelier in Orange County Virginia

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  • All the Small Things: An Analysis of Small Finds at James Madison’s Montpelier Plantation (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jeanne Higbee.

    Over the past two decades, archaeology at Montpelier has provided a critical perspective into the lives of the enslaved individuals who lived and worked on the plantation. Excavations of the Montpelier Field Quarter and the South Yard have yielded a unique opportunity to further our understanding of the cultural impact on the landscape. Small finds, such as sewing and smoking implements are examples of important domestic artifacts found at many of these excavations. The proposed research will...

  • Claiming a House of Bondage: Examining Spatial Relationships of Domestic Slavery at Montpelier (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Terry Brock.

    The arrangement of domestic slavery in elite 18th and 19th century homes was built on an unsteady relationship between the enslaved laborers and the owner of the households. At Montpelier, this was amplified by a plantation landscape crafted as an entertainment space, and who's creation and maintenance relied entirely on the obedience and cooperation of enslaved laborers. These laborers lived and worked in and around the Mansion, and were integral to the performance of domesticity that James and...

  • Defined by Place?: Setting the Homes of the Enslaved Community at Montpelier into a Regional Context (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Matthew Reeves.

    The plantation landscape of Montpelier is one that was rigorously defined by the Madison family.  Set within the mansion’s formal grounds and a model farm were the homes of the enslaved laborers who built and ran this plantation. Four years of excavations at half dozen homes of the enslaved community have revealed much in regard to how both the plantation owners and the enslaved community designed and laid out their homes within this constrained setting.  These include homes for enslaved...

  • Dipt, Painted, and Printed Wares: Ceramic Assemblages from Enslaved Homes as Evidence of Personal Choice at James Madison's Montpelier (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kimberly A Trickett.

    For the past four years the Montpelier Archaeology Department has focused its research on the late-18th and early-19th-century enslaved community representing field hands, domestic servants, and skilled laborers and artisans. This paper will focus on the ceramic assemblages excavated from those areas and will discuss similarities and differences in decorative styles, vessel forms, and ceramic types using a vessel-based analysis. Decorative styles commonly found on white refined earthenwares will...

  • Every Nook and Cranny: Short-term Residences For Enslaved Laborers (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Mark A Trickett.

    From the timber-framed homes in the South Yard for domestic servants to the log cabins of the Stable and Field Slave Quarters, the housing for the enslaved community at Montpelier mirrored that found on many plantations in the Mid-Atlantic region. Recent excavations at an agricultural structure--the Tobacco Barn--produced a domestic assemblage that suggests the co-option of work structures for temporary worker housing. This paper explores the evidence for variable-duration housing at Montpelier...

  • Interactions Across the Landscape: Interpreting Social Relationships within Montpelier’s Black Community (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Matthew C Greer.

    Social relationships structure daily life in a variety of ways.  However, when considering the social world that existed inside slave quarters across Virginia, archaeologists have not been able to come to a consensus on how to approach the study of social networks; with some researchers focusing on social standing, seen most often through the role of material wealth to create connections and others focusing on how interactions can be meaningfully interpreted from the archaeological record.  This...

  • Living in Work Spaces and Working in Living Spaces: Intersections of Labor and Domesticity in the Enslaved Community at Montpelier. (2015)
    DOCUMENT Full-Text Eric Schweickart.

    The lives of the members of the enslaved community at James Madison’s plantation in Virginia, Montpelier, were shaped by the types of work they were expected to do in order to keep the president’s mansion and farm running smoothly.  Archaeological excavations at several different early 19th century enslaved households at Montpelier reveal the way their inhabitant’s labors influenced the domestic activities which took place within and around these structures.  By comparing and contrasting the...

  • Making the Invisible Visible: Interpreting the Plantation Landscape at James Madison’s Montpelier (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Christian J. Cotz.

    Montpelier was the lifelong home of James Madison, father of the Constitution, architect of the Bill of Rights, liberty-lover, and lifelong slave-owner. Just as importantly, Montpelier was home to a community of as many as six generations of enslaved Africans and African Americans who built the plantation, who generated the Madison family’s wealth, and who enabled James Madison to pursue a life of learning and public service. As archaeological excavations and documentary research allow us to...

  • Materializing the Past: Ghosting Slave Landscapes at James Madison’s Montpelier (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jobie R. Hill. Willie Graham. Gardiner Hallock. Matthew Reeves.

    Starting in 2010 the Montpelier Foundation, the organization that operates James Madison’s plantation in Orange County, Virginia, began a systematic process to reestablish elements of the ca. 1812 slave occupied landscape found adjacent to the Madisons’ house.  These ghosted structures, which include slave dwellings, smoke houses and a kitchen, are based on archaeological and documentary evidence and were recreated using traditional framing techniques.  More recently the Foundation finished a...

  • Seeds, Weeds, and Feed: Macrobotanical Analysis of Enslaved African-American Plant Use and Foodways at a James Madison's Montpelier (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Samantha J. Henderson.

    In 2008, the archaeology department at James Madison’s Montpelier began a multi-year project that sought to understand the community dynamics between enslaved workers at the plantation in the early 19th century. This study excavated and analyzed four sites: South Yard, Stable Quarter, Field Quarter, and Tobacco Barn Quarter.  Each of these sites represents a different community of enslaved workers, from those who worked in the mansion to field hands.  In this paper, I discuss and compare the...

  • Setting Boundaries: Identifying the Homes of Enslaved Field Workers at James Madison's Montpelier (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Christine H Heacock. Matthew Reeves.

    During the 2012-2013 field season, the Montpelier Archaeology Department excavated the remains of houses occupied by field workers on the Madison plantation . These structures were not built using sub-surface methods that would leave direct architectural evidence.  In the absence of post- in- hole construction or foundations, the determination of building boundaries can be quite challenging for archaeologists. Drawing on the evidence from  Montpelier and other  examples lacking features directly...

  • Slave Foodways at James Madison’s Montpelier A.D. 1810- 1830 (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Chance H. Copperstone. Barnet Pavao-Zuckerman.

    Based primarily on similarities in occupation, the enslaved population at Montpelier formed distinct enclaves within the plantation, both spatially and within the hierarchy of the operation of the plantation. While food rations at Montpelier were nominally the same for each of these groups, position within the plantation hierarchy created differing opportunity to supplement those rations through access to both the Madison’s themselves and to the means to acquire wild game. Zooarchaeological...