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Celebrate African American History Month

African American history is American history, from the earliest colonial settlement at Jamestown to the American Revolution to the struggle for Civil Rights. Archeology helps to reveal this history and celebrate African American achievements.

Long before the Civil War ended legal slavery, African Americans carved out places on the landscape, creating a legacy for all of us today.

In 1738 the Spanish Governor chartered Fort Mose as a settlement for African Americans who had been fleeing for generations from from the British colonies of South Carolina and Georgia to freedom in Spanish La Florida. The site of Fort Mose is a National Historic Landmark and a Florida State Park. What we know about Fort Mose comes from both historical and archeological research. An activity-filled learning resource for children and adults demonstrates how we learn from both documents and artifacts.

The Robinson family of Virginia made their home on what is now Manassas National Battlefield Park, living there as free people before, during and after the Civil War. Decades before the war, the McWorters went west, establishing a town on the Illinois frontier in the 1830s. After Reconstuction many African Americans sought opportunity in the west. Some established the well-known community of Nicodemus in Kansas.

Archeology also investigates, documents, and commemorates the sad and difficult history of enslavement, both at plantations and in cities. Although it came as a surprise to many when the colonial-era African Burial Ground was uncovered in lower Manhattan, slavery was practiced throughout the north as well as the south. Investigations at the President's House in Philadelphia highlight the contradictions inherent in our history, as we celebrate the birth of American freedom at Independence Hall and yet are faced with the fact of the simultaneous struggle for freedom by African Americans.

Traces of the Underground Railroad are difficult to find archeologically, but there are places on the landscape that speak to that massive movement toward freedom.

  • Overhead view of Fort Mose.
  • Nicodemus homesteaders pose in front of farmhouse (LOC photo)
  • Memorial crypt at the African Burial Ground National Monument. (NPS photo)

Many more places of African American heritage are commemorated by listing in the National Register of Historic Places. There are many places you can visit to learn more about the archeology of African Americans and about National Parks associated with African Americans. Explore the distance learning course on African American Heritage and celebrate archeology and history in the Southeast. Find further information through these important links for African American archeology.

TSM/MJB