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Department of Anthropology Graduate Student Organization presents: Christopher Matthews

204 Maxwell Hall

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'Creole Synthesis' to 'Racial Modernity': An archaeology of culture change in the Native and African American Community in Setauket, New York


The talk is about a historical archaeological study of a mixed heritage Native and African American community on the north shore of Long Island in New York. The purpose of the project is to determine and document the response of this community to an increasingly hostile racial environment over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries. While nonwhites consistently faced racial prejudice, the nature of racism in the early 19th century post-emancipation era of 'creole synthesis' in New York was arguably less severe than in the mid-century and later when a 'racial modernity' took hold. I examine how Native and African Americans adjusted the economic and cultural strategies they used to confront racism at the household level. The discussion will draw from archival and material culture data related to two archaeological sites associated with early-19th and late-19th century “colored” households in Setauket, NY. My hypothesis is that if racism did intensify over the course of the nineteenth century, then the data from the two sites should indicate different patterns in the evidence of community segregation, labor practices and wealth, as well as material identity as these "colored" people were further marginalized socially and economically through time.

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