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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Robert Paynter

Second Advisor

Marla Miller

Third Advisor

Warren Perry

Subject Categories

Archaeological Anthropology


Massachusetts is an ideal place to study Africans in New England during the 19th and early 20th century because the state abolished slavery in 1783, while surrounding states and the federal government did not. Although Massachusetts Blacks had certain rights and freedoms and the state became a haven for escaped captive Africans from surrounding states, it remained segregated White space and had racialized social, political, and economic structures to regulate and control the Black population. Yet, within adversity, the African Americans established their own communities and agitated for full citizenship, equality, and the end to African captivity. Their daily life has been elucidated with the documentary record and archaeology. The study takes as its entry point the materiality of African American lives as manifested in archaeological assemblages and their material spatial relations. This dissertation uses census data and other documents to explore facets of racialized space in the following Massachusetts cities and towns: Andover, Plymouth, Great Barrington, Pittsfield, Boston, and Nantucket. With these documents, forms of racialization also illuminate spatial separation and the intersection of education, occupation, race and gender. Through comparisons of thirteen archaeological assemblages spanning the eastern and western parts of the state, along with one of the islands, it is apparent that the material culture reflects the existence of moral uplift, racialization, consumerism, and the transition from African to African American. This study underscores the long period of time that Black people have lived in the state. Additionally, it explores historically documented Black communities, thereby expanding the imprint of the population on the landscape. While Massachusetts has numerous sites, those in the 19th century and 20th century are mostly homesites and are concentrated in certain areas. Only one major city, Boston, has excavated multiple African American sites. There is a significant need for future archaeological research, for instance, in the Massachusetts towns and cities that host African American heritage trails, to learn more about people who have traversed this landscape for a very, very long time.