Beneath the Floorboards: Whispers of the Enslaved in Middletown, NJ

Author(s): Joseph Zemla

Year: 2022


This is an abstract from the session entitled "African American Voices In The Mid-Atlantic: Archaeology Of Elusive Freedom, Enslavement, And Rebellion" , at the 2022 annual meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology.

Archival documentation indicates that at least 12 enslaved African Americans lived and worked at the c. 1756 Marlpit Hall farmhouse in Middletown, NJ. Recent interior exploration of the former slave quarters has revealed concealed tangible representations of material culture and spirituality that originated with these enslaved individuals. These findings mimic similar discoveries at Southern plantations, but are exceedingly rare in northeastern states, lending credence to the notion that West African spiritual practices survived the trans-Atlantic slave trade not only in the South but as far north as New Jersey and New York. Artifact assemblages from Marlpit Hall include a cache of ceramic shards, shells, and small bones under the floorboards, fragments of clothing hidden in the walls, corn cobs purposefully arranged as a crossmark, and markings found within a doorway.

Cite this Record

Beneath the Floorboards: Whispers of the Enslaved in Middletown, NJ. Joseph Zemla. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Philadelphia, PA. 2022 ( tDAR id: 469317)


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Contact(s): Society for Historical Archaeology