USC to hold conference, ‘Archaeology of the Recent African American Past’

January 29, 2009

An archaeological exploration of the post-emancipation lives of African Americans will be the focus of a University of South Carolina conference Feb. 27 – 28 in the Daniel Mikel Management Center of the Moore School of Business. 

Titled “The Archaeology of the Recent African American Past,” the conference will focus on how archaeological data can reveal information about former slaves from James Island to as far west as communities in Kansas and Illinois. 

Sessions, which are free and open to the public, run from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 27, and 9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Saturday. 

Dr. Theresa Singleton, a historical archaeologist from Syracuse University, will deliver the keynote address at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Robert Mills Carriage House. Singleton has edited two books, “The Archaeology of Slavery and Plantation Life” and “I, too, am America: Archaeological Studies of African-American Life.” 

After Singleton’s talk, conference attendees will be invited to tour African-American heritage sites in Columbia. The cost of the bus tour is $15 per person. 

In connection with the conference, McKissick Museum will host a gallery tour of two exhibits Friday evening that will provide a glimpse into post-emancipation life in South Carolina. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. and includes a reception with music by R&B entertainer and story-teller Solly ‘puddin’ Jennings and the Piedmont Express. The exhibit “The Life and Times of Congressman Robert Smalls” is a traveling exhibit organized by the Avery Research Center at the College of Charleston. “To Make a House a Home: Freedmen Living on James Island” is curated by Melanie Neil, a museum-management student at the university, and Carl Steen, an archaeologist with Columbia’s Diachronic Research Foundation. The James Island exhibit features objects excavated from the barrier island that convey how former enslaved laborers defined “home.” 

The archaeology conference is organized by the College of Arts and Sciences’ South Carolina Institute for Archaeology and Anthropology and the department of anthropology. The agenda and more information about the conference are available at the Web site:

University of South Carolina scholars who will make presentations at the conference include Dr. Leland Ferguson, a professor emeritus of anthropology, and Jakob Crockett, a doctoral student in anthropology. Ferguson’s talk is titled “What Means Gottes Acker?: The 20th Century Obliteration and Revival of an African-American Story,” and Jakob’s talk is titled “Studies of Commodities within African-American Pasts.” 

For more information on the conference, contact Jodi Barnes at 803-777-5130 or via e-mail at [email protected].