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Celebrate African American History Month

Archeology has made important contributions to knowledge about black history in America. This Black History Month, learn more about archeology and the stories it has to tell about freedom, oppression, life, and liberty using lesson plans available online. The people behind those stories set the groundwork for African Americans to become archeologists—check out the biography of John Wesley Gilbert, the first African American archeologist, and listen to Nedra Lee talk about her work today. Maybe one of these lesson plans will inspire a student of yours to become an archeologist!

New Philadelphia: A Multiracial Town on the Illinois Frontier
Learn about New Philadelphia, Illinois, the first town platted and registered by an African American before the Civil War. New Philadelphia is a National Historic Landmark.

Archeology: History Found in Places (PDF)
Find out about James Dexter, one of six free African American heads of household who lived on a block now part of Independence National Historical Park.

“Gentleman Jim”: Tough Choices in a Time of Crisis and Robinson House
Hear the story of the Robinson Family, a free black family living in Manassas at the time of the Civil War. The remains of the Robinson House are now part of Manassas National Battlefield Park in Virginia. See an online exhibit to learn more about archeology at the homesite.

Lick Creek African-American Settlement (PDF)
Explore the Lick Creek African American Settlement, located within the Hoosier National Forest (part of the U.S. Forest Service) in Indiana. It was settled by free blacks in the early nineteenth century, but many people left right before the Civil War. Read more about the settlers and their lives at Lick Creek, and the archeology done there.

If you’re interested in taking students on a field trip to learn about African American archeology, two places to go are the African Burial Ground and Cane River Creole. Many more places of African American heritage are commemorated by listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

  • Archeologists at work on excavation.
  • Ceramic artifacts.
  • Memorial crypt at the African Burial Ground National Monument. (NPS photo)

TSM/MJB