Leland G. Ferguson,
Research Activities and Interests
For the past eleven years I have been actively involved in the historical archaeology of the early African-American community in the 18th and 19th century Moravian community of Salem in North Carolina. I expect this involvement to continue. As an extension of research outlined in Uncommon Ground (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992), I have a continuing interest in the ethno archaeological studies of pottery in West and Central Africa. My theoretical and topical interests include creolization, ethno genesis, ethnocentrism and racism, and gender studies.
SALEM, NORTH CAROLINA
The Historical Archaeology of Early African Americans
Moravian town of Salem; North Carolina.
Introduction. Historical Context. and Central Issues
Relative to most African Americans who lived in the slaveholding South, we know quite a lot about the African-American population of Salem (Africa 1977; Gehrke 1937; Harrison 1977; Marx 1985, 1992a, 1992b; Rogers-Reese n.d., 1966; Rohrer 1992a, 1992b, 1993, 1995; Sensbach 1991; Shirley 1994). Nevertheless, documentation about African Americans in Salem is scant compared to that of white-Moravians. It is also one-sided, and part of the history of African Americans in Salem--particularly the early African-American cemetery--was intentionally obliterated. The goals of this project are 1) to recover as much as possible of the layout of that cemetery, 2) to use the recovered data to check and improve the historical model of Salem's early African American demography and genealogy, and 3) to use the differences and contradictions between the generally accepted history and the archaeological record to shed light on how racism and racial segregation developed in Salem.
The better-documented white Moravians originated in eastern Europe, in what is now the Czech Republic, as a Protestant, communal sect dedicated to spreading Christianity. As part of their mission they established Salem in 1772. From there they planned to support mission-work among the Southeastern Indians. Somewhat reluctantly they bought African-American slaves to assist in building their community, and in the beginning they accepted these black Americans into their religious and communal fold (Sensbach 1991), holding that the difference between slave and free was comparable to differences between man and woman, adult and child. Then in the early 1800s an alienation began that resulted, by the middle of the 19th century, in the white Moravians' full participation in the racist segregation of the South. The timing of this alienation coincided with a more general transition "wherein race," according to historical anthropologist Audrey Smedley (1993: 224) "took priority over social class in its function as the dominant mechanism of social division and stratification in North America." The Salem example is a special case of this transition, a case wherein explicit religiously based ideals about human relationships in general, and Moravian society in particular, were first contradicted and then compromised. In Salem, racial segregation became more important to white Moravians than the social bonds of their close-knit religious community; and as white Moravians separated themselves from blacks, Moravians were segregated from other Moravians, an idea that would have been an anathema to Church leaders of the middle 18th century.
White Moravians were troubled by ethnic differences, especially as expressed in church behavior which was the focus of their community (Sensbach 1991: 402-472 ). These German immigrants were also trying to establish and maintain good social relations with the white community surrounding them: English, Scotch-Irish, and German settlers who had proceeded to racism more quickly than their Moravians neighbors. The alienation, separation, and segregation within the Moravian community took place in stages: A separate Sunday school was established in 1803, and in 1816 Church leaders declared that all African Americans who died in Salem- Moravian church members or not--must be buried in the Stranger's God's Acre, a cemetery outside of town that was set aside in 1779 for non-Moravians (and is now the focus of this project).2 Moreover, they agreed that white non-Moravians who died in the town could be buried in their God's Acre with Moravians. Then in 1823 the Church directed black Moravians to build themselves a separate church, again out of town and adjacent to the Stranger's, renamed Negro, God's Acre. Built of logs, this church stood immediately south of the cemetery (Figure 1).
Cemetery extends from 1861 brick church in
upper center to the street.
1823 log church, covered with planks, at far right. (1862 photograph)
Records of this African-American church, including cemetery interments, were recorded in the "Diary of the Small Negro Congregation in and around Salem." This Diary has only recently been translated from German (Marx 1985, 1992a, 1992b), and historical researchers associated with the archaeological project have reconstructed a burial list from the Diary and other records for the period 1816 to 1859 when the cemetery was closed to new interments. This complements a list of "Strangers" or non Moravians, both black and white, for the period 1779-1816. A careful reading of the Diary and comparison with the minutes of Salem's Moravian governing bodies suggests that in the 1850s white Moravians used the excuse that the cemetery was filled and disorderly to argue for closing the graveyard. This is one example of instances where white-Moravian rhetoric concerning the cemetery appears to cover underlying racist concerns; others have been discussed in the third project report (Ferguson 1994: 33-36).
In 1859 efforts to close the cemetery succeeded, and a new cemetery for African Americans was established farther outside of Salem. Concurrent with closing the old cemetery, the Church was building a new brick church adjoining the eastern boundary of the old cemetery for the small African-American Moravian congregation--a congregation that was led by a white minister and taught by white Sunday school teachers until the middle of the 20th century. Their aim appears to have been to segregate Salem blacks from the growing community of non Moravian African Americans around Salem and at the same time demonstrate their dedication to the welfare of those African Americans who belonged to the church, both as members and as property. Their actions in building a new church may also have been a response to abolitionist pressure. Whatever, Salem's African Americans and the brick church remained peripheral, if not excluded from, the white community of Salem. In 1890 an addition to the front of the church was built over the earliest part of the cemetery (the Stranger's Graveyard), and in the second decade of the 20th century the entire churchyard, including the post- 1816 part of the cemetery, was landscaped: grave depressions were filled, walkways and retaining walls were built and the gravestones were removed and hidden. The cemetery was essentially erased.
This cemetery has had several names. English
colonial law required that every parish have a public cemetery.
So, in addition to their Moravian cemetery or "God's Acre,"
church leaders established a "parish cemetery" for non-Moravians,
both black and white, just outside of their town. This they
called the "Stranger's God's Acre." After segregating
their cemeteries in 1816 and relegating all blacks to the
Stranger's God's Acre, they began to refer to this cemetery as
the "Negro God's Acre," or the "Colored God's
Acre," with "graveyard" or "cemetery"
sometimes used in place of "God's Acre." For purposes
of research, we generally refer to the older, 1779-1816 portion
of the cemetery as the "Stranger's Graveyard" and the
expanded 1816 1859 portion as the "African-American Cemetery."
Since 1991 the principal investigator has directed six small-scale projects totaling 12 weeks in the field. These have been aimed at better understanding the complex consisting of the two churches and the Stranger's/African American Cemetery (Figure 1). This archaeological research has resulted in six field reports (Ferguson 1992, 1994, 1995, In Press; Ferguson and Taylor 1993; Bevan 1994) and two master's theses (Taylor 1992; Dowe 1994). Another master's thesis focusing on the relationship between archaeology and the interpretation of African American culture in Salem is now underway.
This archaeological research has been part of a larger, community project initiated by the Ad Hoc Committee for the Preservation of St. Philips Church.3 This Committee consisted of a wide-range of community members, including the minister of the present-day St. Philips congregation. Project activities have been widely publicized in local newspapers, and some of the archeological results were used in a well-received community exhibit by artist Fred Wilson (SCCA 1994). For the last three years the archaeological projects have included field schools for local teenagers with special interests in African American history. The research has been supported by Old Salem, Inc. and the University of South Carolina, with partial funding by a grant from the National Park Service administered by the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources Division of Archives and History.
A primary aim of the field project has been to recover the
early cemetery. Three small-scale maps of the cemetery show rough
outlines and gross dimensions; thus, we know the location of the
cemetery. However, no maps show the location of graves or
gravestones. Archaeologically we have located at least 53 graves:
10 by surface inspection, 15 by coring for grave fill, 16 through
excavation into the "A" soil horizon, and 12 by
excavating into the subsoil. We have learned that only by
excavating well into the subsoil can we clearly determine the
outline, and therefore size, of grave pits (Figure 2). Grave
spacing as well as a critical study of the documents strongly
suggests that the list of 120 people represents a complete, or
very near complete, record of interments in the cemetery, however
this has not been confirmed and research has not tied graves to
Figure 2 Grave outline at subsoil.
3 In 1913 the brick church and its congregation were given the name St. Philips, and the congregation is still active, although in a different location.
In 1994 and 1995 archaeologists discovered 31 gravestones beneath the hallway floor and granite steps of the 1890 addition to the brick church. Fourteen of them had been used to support rotted floor joists. With one exception, a stone for a non-Moravian white woman buried as a "Stranger," all of the stones are distinctively Moravian--small rectangular markers that lay flat on the ground. One of these memorials reads as follows: Timothy, A Native of Africa, Aged Upwards of 100 years. Pleasant, another African, and a Moravian church-member like Timothy was also given a stone marker. Preliminary analysis suggests that all black Moravian church members buried in the cemetery were given stones. But this accounts for only a small number of African Americans with gravestones. Two stones were set for free African Americans. All others were carved for non-Moravian female slave-servants of well-to-do white Moravian households. Some of the sub-adult female offspring of these women were also given stones, but not their male offspring.
Although the burial list shows more males buried in the cemetery than females (1.7:1), there are more stones for females than males (1.14:1). Those people not memorialized with Moravian type grave markers were primarily males of any age who were not church members. Thus, the gravestones appear to testify to differential social relationships--based on church membership, type of service, and gender--between white Moravians, who bought and paid for most of the stones, and African Americans. Memorials for African Americans by African Americans--specifically water-worn stones surrounding graves--have been found archaeologically in the cemetery (Figure 3) (Ferguson 1994: 36-48).
Figure 3 Waterworn stones bordering grave are a subtle African-Ameican memorial
We have also recovered scissors on the center of two adjacent
graves, and marine shell and mirror fragments that may have been
used as grave offerings or decoration (Ferguson 1994: 36-48).
Thus, while on the surface the cemetery appears to have closely
followed the white-Moravian pattern, archaeological excavation
has shown subtle African-American traits associated with the
1977 Slavholding in the Salem Community, 1771-1851. North Carolina Historical Review, 54(3): 271-307.
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University of South Carolina, Columbia.
1990 The Archaeology of Racism and Ethnicity on Southern Plantations. Historical Archaeology, 24(4): 20-28.
1994 A Geophysical Test at the Strangers' Cemetery, Old Salem. Appendix I.Hidden Testimony: A Perspective from Historical Archaeology on African Americans and Cemeteries in Old Salem, Retrospect and Results of the 1993 Project, by Leland Ferguson. Report submitted to the Winston-Salem, Forsyth County, Kernersville Preservation Council. Copies on file at Old Salem, Inc., Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
1989 "Sleep on and Take Your Rest": Black Mortuary Behavior on the East Branch of the Cooper River, South Carolina. Master of Arts Thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of South Carolina, Columbia.
1990 The Bone and Chemical Analysis and Bioarchaeology of an Historic South Carolina African-American Cemetery. Master of Arts Thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of South Carolina, Columbia.
Dowe, Amy Patricia
1994 Finding the Children: An Archaeological Case Study from St. Philip's Moravian church and Parish Graveyard. Master of Arts Thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of South Carolina, Columbia.
1990a "To Fix a Perpetual Brand": The Social Construction of Race in Virginia, 1675-1750.University Microfilms, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
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1994 Hidden Testimony: A Perspective from Historical Archaeology on African Americans and Cemeteries in Old Salem, Retrospect and Results of the 1993 Project. Report submitted to the Winston-Salem, Forsyth County, Kernersville Preservation Council. Copies on file at Old Salem, Inc., Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
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1992a Diary of the Small Negro Congregation in and around Salem, January 1, 1843 - March 23, 1845. Moravian Archives, Southern Province.
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1995 Recognizing Children's Graves in 19th Century Cemeteries: Excavations in St. Thomas Anglican Churchyard, Belleville, Ontario, Canada. Historical Archaeology, 29(2), 77-99.
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n.d. The Fit Survived: Medical and Social Problems of the Moravians in North Carolina from 1753 to 1854. Manuscript on file at Old Salem, Inc., Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
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1992b Historical Documentations: Appendix IV of "A Report on Archaeological Testing of the St. Philips Moravian Church and Parish Graveyard," by Leland Ferguson.
1993 A Mission Among the People: The World of St. Philip's Church from 1890 to 1952. Manuscript on file at Old Salem, Inc., Winston-Salem, NC.
1995 The 1823 African-American Log Church: An Assessment. Manuscript on file at Old Salem, Inc., Winston-Salem, NC.
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1994 From Congregation Town to Industrial City: Culture and Social Change in a Southern Community.
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Name: Leland Greer Ferguson, Dept. of Anthropology, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina 29208. E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Telephone: 803-777-6547 or 6500; Fax: 803-777-0259.
Degrees: Ph.D., 1971 Anthropology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; M.S., 1966 Mechanical Engineering, North Carolina State University; B.S., 1964 Mechanical Engineering, North Carolina State University
Appointments: University of South Carolina: 1992-Present: Professor, Dept of Anthropology
(Department Chair, 1994-Present). 1979-1992: Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, (Graduate Director: 1979-1983); 1977-1979 Part-Time and Visiting Assistant Professor. 1972-1977 S.C. Institute of Archeology and Anthropology (Acting Assistant Director: 1976-1977).
Florida Atlantic University: 1970-1971 Interim
Instructor and Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology.
1999 "The Cross is a Magic Sign": Marked Pots from the Carolina Lowcountry. In "I, Too, Am America". Archaeological Studies of African-American Life, edited by Theresa A. Singleton. The University of Virginia Press, Charlottesville.
1992 Uncommon Ground: Arcaheologv and Colonial African America 1650-1800. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.
1991 Struggling with Pots in Colonial South Carolina. In The Archaeology of Inequality, edited by R. McGuire and R. Paynter, 28-39. Basil Blackwell, Cambridge, Mass. (Reprinted in Images of the Recent Past: Readings in Historical Archaeology, edited by Charles E. Orser, Jr., Sage Publications, Inc., 1996)
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1982 Afro-American Slavery and the "Invisible" Archeological Record of South Carolina. Papers of the Conference on Historical Sites Archeology. 14:13-19. Columbia, South Carolina.
1980 Looking for the "Afro-" in Colono-Indian Pottery. Conference on Historic Sites Archeologv. Papers. 12:68-86, Columbia, South Carolina; and Archaeological Perspectives on Ethnicity in American edited by Robert L. Schuyler, 14-28. Baywood Publishing Co., Inc. Farmingdale, New York.
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