"Oh Freedom Over Me:" Space, Agency, and Identity at Elam Baptist Church in Ruthville, Virginia

Author(s): Rebecca Schumann

Year: 2015


Founded in 1810, Elam Baptist Church was one of the first Virginian churches that free blacks controlled. The church's architectural layout cited that of local white churches, containing separate entrances for whites, free blacks and enslaved blacks. This paper discusses the ways in which the agency and identity of the local free black community emerged through the historically and spatially specific relationships in which Elam was enmeshed. The boundaries that the free black community created through these entrances played an active role in these relationships, affecting the ways that different people understood the world.  By emphasizing the distinctions between those who worshipped there, Elam’s architectural landscape constantly shaped the ways that people experienced Elam’s physical and social environment. Moreover, Elam’s free black congregation used these spatial boundaries to solidify social boundaries between themselves and other groups, in the process constructing a free black identity and rejecting Virginia's dominant social order.

Cite this Record

"Oh Freedom Over Me:" Space, Agency, and Identity at Elam Baptist Church in Ruthville, Virginia. Rebecca Schumann. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Seattle, Washington. 2015 ( tDAR id: 433922)


Agency Identity Space

Geographic Keywords
North America United States of America

Temporal Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -129.199; min lat: 24.495 ; max long: -66.973; max lat: 49.359 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Society for Historical Archaeology

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): 28