Along the banks of the Ohio river, lives a deep history of human occupation. Known famously for its integral and symbolic nature, the river that flows into the Mississippi gave meaning to the dividing ties of the North and South during the Civil War (April 12, 1861-May 13, 1865). The issues of slavery were only resolved over much bloodshed. However, the stories of the people, on either side, show the complexities of a battle within a country fighting to remain intact while its people are screaming for division. Despite the harrowing stories of war and loss of life, there was a beacon of hope for Blacks in the Ohio River Valley – the Clermont Academy of New Richmond, Ohio. Established in 1839, Clermont Academy is believed to be one of the first preparatory schools in the United States devoted to educating males and females, regardless of color. It was a pioneer in the educational advancements of equality by encompassing the progressive thoughts of Northern abolitionists. Bringing these ideals to the forefront of the battle between freed and enslaved individuals in the United States, the Parker family and their commonly referred to “Parker Academy” became a refuge.
Would you believe me if I told you that Islam was present in America before the U.S. constitution was written? What about two Muslim brothers from Morocco helped Columbus navigate to the New World? Or, that between 600,000 to 1.2 million enslaved Africans were Muslim?
Three years ago I would not have believed myself. These are three tiny facts that allude to the legacy of African Islam in America. Different from Orthodox Islam, African Islam was brought over by the hundreds of thousands of enslaved persons who were ripped from their homes, their families, their lives. Present in North Africa since the 8th century and firmly established by the rise of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, African Islam is a unique blend of traditional religions and customs with Islamic beliefs and practices. Originally, Islam in West Africa was seen as an elite faith of traders and rulers before it was adopted by agrarian people.
SUMMER IN NEW YORK’S SOUTHERN TIER: CELEBRATING TWO DECADES OF PUBLIC ARCHAEOLOGY WITH THE COMMUNITY ARCHAEOLOGY PROGRAM
It’s always the hottest time of the year and the site has no shade, but that doesn’t stop our participants from spending a week in July excavating at an important local site in New York’s Southern Tier. Every so often you hear someone call out from a screen, “Hey, I found a flake.” That unit’s team gathers round to see and share. Their excitement is why we do public outreach.
Binghamton University’s Public Archaeology Facility (PAF) has been committed to public outreach since it was established in 1972. After all, “public” is in our name! Since then, the Community Archaeology Program, or CAP, has educated the public about historic preservation, and shared information about local archaeology projects with the communities where we conduct archaeology. Throughout the year, PAF staff respond to community requests and present lectures on archaeology and local prehistory to school groups, historical societies, and social groups. We also invite school groups to our lab facility. After being repeatedly asked by audience members if they could participate in archaeology projects, rather than just observe, in 1996 we designed and implemented an integrated summer outreach program aimed at multiple audiences. It is our summer program that we will focus on for this post.
Before I begin: there is a range of deafness, from mild hearing loss to profoundly deaf. I am on the “medium” range. I wear hearing aids, wore them since I was around two or three years old, and attended speech therapy classes throughout my youth. Basically, I am a (what a hearing person would call) “functioning” deaf person: I am able to hear, lip-read well, and use my voice to communicate. However, I do not practice the particular “skill” frequently, which means that my “skill” can be ineffective in a group setting when everyone is talking over each other and I would be unable to read anyone’s lips. I chose to not practice my “skill” “often” because I consider myself deaf. I grew up going to an all-deaf school and an university that mainly serve the deaf. I am very comfortable using my first language, American Sign Language, to communicate with people. Using an interpreter to convey my messages to hearing people is the best way for me to communicate because I am able to accurately represent my “voice” by signing and there would not be any misunderstanding from both sides of the conversation between me and a hearing person (or hearing people).
Growing up, I knew I was one of those Deaf people who were fortunate enough to attend an all deaf school and an all deaf university. Also, growing up, I was cultured. I was aware of the world. I was addicted to the field of museum studies and archaeology, practically from my mother’s womb. I did not know any difference nor was I barricaded from pursuing my goal: to get a degree within the field.
One of the many highlights of my year abroad in England was the time I spent at Auckland Castle, in the northeast town of Bishop Auckland. As an intern, student, and volunteer, I was witness to the early stages of a truly remarkable regeneration project that focuses on cultural heritage to revitalize the economically-deprived, surrounding town. Whether I was assisting with a school visit in the Throne Room or excavating in the Walled Garden, I relished the chance to be part of such an ambitious project that preserves the heritage and archaeology of the Castle, using them as a catalyst for social change.
With over 900 years of history, Auckland Castle is the country home of the Prince Bishops of Durham. A title that, from its inception in 995 to when it was dissolved in 1832, carried with it the religious powers of a bishop and the secular powers of an earl. This combination of secular and religious power can be seen in the crest of the Bishop of Durham, which features a bishop’s mitre and a ducal coronet.
The details of the stories and histories of the first American colonies may or may not be familiar depending on how much American history you have consumed since high school. It is well known that the Pilgrims settled Plymouth Colony after arriving on the Mayflower and that the Puritans came to Massachusetts for religious freedom. The real intrigue of Colonial America lies in the mysterious fate of the settlers of Roanoke Colony who disappeared in 1590. How much do we know from historical accounts? In history and in archaeology, how do you begin to search for something that is lost? What evidence do we need to determine the fate of those that disappeared over 400 years ago?
As a recent archaeology grad stuck in the never ending search for my first job, I’ve been on a mission to refine my resume by volunteering with local archaeology projects. I came across the Herring Run Archaeology Project on Facebook a few weeks ago and jumped at the opportunity to get involved. I am so glad that I did.