The Old Plantation Painting at Colonial Williamsburg: New Findings and Some Observations

2010 (Jerome S. Handler) “The Old Plantation Painting at Colonial Williamsburg: New Findings and Some Observations.” African Diaspora Archaeology Newsletter. December.

"The Old Plantation"

\”The Old Plantation\”

Arguably the best known visual depiction of African American life during the eighteenth century, this small watercolor, owned by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation (CWF), poses a number of questions of interpretation and identification. The artist did not name the painting, which gives a unique visual perspective on early African American life, but former owners gave it the arbitrary title “The Old Plantation,” by which it is now commonly known. The painting, which is unsigned, undated and not given a provenience, depicts what are presumed to be plantation slaves dancing and playing musical instruments within a rural setting. The history of how this painting came to be known and ultimately owned by CWF is well documented in a recently published work by Susan Shames, the decorative arts librarian with CWF. Most importantly, her meticulous genealogical and historical research has identified the artist for the first time, and has also refined earlier speculations on the probable locale of the painting and the approximate date at which it was made.

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Change in Small Scale Pottery Manufacture in Antigua, West Indies

2009 (M. W. Hauser and J. Handler) “Change in Small Scale Pottery Manufacture in Antigua, West Indies.” African Diaspora Archaeology Newsletter. December.

Today, in a handful of Caribbean islands (e.g., Jamaica, Martinique, Barbados, Antigua, Nevis, and St. Lucia), persons of African descent continue to manufacture earthenware pottery, generally somewhat loosely and variously referred to by modern Caribbean archaeologists as Afro-Caribbean pottery or ceramics. These small-scale industries have always played an insignificant role in insular national economies and at present they seem to have a very limited chance for long-term survival. Today they produce largely for the tourist market and are disappearing to varying degrees. Several of these industries have been ethnographically reported over the years, and these reports provide a base line from which to examine the changing demands and pressures confronting local potteries. Diachronic studies of these industries permit researchers to chart changes as these industries decline, and also provide a lens through which archaeologists can understand the ways in which local craft industries have confronted changing economic landscapes. Moreover, traditional locally made earthenware is today found in historical archaeological sites in the West Indies and ethnographic knowledge about local industries helps interpret the archaeological data. The following information on the little-known industry in the small island of Antigua, a former British colony in the Leeward island chain — today an independent member of the British Commonwealth — is based on limited field work, published literature, and personal correspondence with persons possessing first-hand knowledge.

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Vernacular Houses and Domestic Material Culture on Barbados Sugar Plantations, 1650-1838

2009 (J. S. Handler and S. Bergman) “Vernacular Houses and Domestic Material Culture on Barbados Sugar Plantations, 1650-1838.” Journal of Caribbean History 43: 1-36.

This paper describes the houses and household furnishings of the enslaved people on Barbadian sugar plantations, and traces the development and changes in architectural forms, including wattle-and-daub, stone, and wooden plank dwellings, over the several centuries of slavery on the island. We also treat the housing policies of plantation owners/managers, and explore possible African and European cultural influences on the Barbadian vernacular housing tradition that emerged during the period of slavery.

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The Middle Passage and the Material Culture of Captive Africans

2009 (Jerome S. Handler) “The Middle Passage and the Material Culture of Captive Africans.” Slavery and Abolition 30: 1-26.

Scholars of the Atlantic slave trade have not systematically addressed the question of what material objects or personal belongings captive Africans took aboard the slave ships and what goods they may have acquired on the Middle Passage. This topic has implications for the archaeology of African descendant sites in the New World and the transmission of African material culture. This paper reviews the evidence for clothing, metal, bead, and other jewelry, amulets, tobacco pipes, musical instruments, and gaming materials. In so doing, the paper provides an empirical foundation for the severe limitations placed upon enslaved Africans in transporting their material culture to the New World.

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Gizzard Stones, Wari in the New World, and Slave Ships: Some Research Questions

2009 (Jerome S. Handler) “Gizzard Stones, Wari in the New World, and Slave Ships: Some Research Questions.” African Diaspora Archaeology Newsletter. June.

Argues that archaeologically recovered so-called gizzard stones were not utilized for playing wari, the African board game, by African descended populations in the United States, reviews documentary and ethnographic evidence for the presence of wari in the United States and the Caribbean, and discusses the documentary evidence for the presence of African games aboard British slaving vessels during the Middle Passage.

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Escrava Anastácia: The Iconographic History of a Brazilian Popular Saint

2009 (J. S. Handler and K. E. Hayes) “Escrava Anastácia: The Iconographic History of a Brazilian Popular Saint.” African Diaspora: Journal of Transnational Africa in a Global World 2: 1-27.

This article describes the transformation of an image depicting an unnamed, enslaved African man wearing a metal facemask, a common form of punishment in colonial Brazil, into the iconic representation of the martyred slave Anastácia/Anastasia, the focus of a growing religious and political movement in Brazil. The authors trace the image to an early 19th century engraving based on a drawing by the Frenchman Jacques Arago. Well over a century later, Arago’s image increasingly became associated with a corpus of myths describing the virtuous suffering and painful death of a female slave named Anastácia. By the 1990s, Arago’s image (and variations of it), now identified as the martyred Anastácia/Anastasia, had proliferated throughout Brazil, an object of devotion for Catholics and practitioners of Umbanda, as well as a symbol of black pride.

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The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record

2009 (J. S. Handler and M. Tuite) The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record.

The approximately 1,235 images in this collection have been selected from a wide range of sources, most of them dating from the period of slavery. This collection is envisioned as a tool and a resource that can be used by teachers, researchers, students, and the general public – in brief, anyone interested in the experiences of Africans who were enslaved and transported to the Americas and the lives of their descendants in the slave societies of the New World.

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Aspects of the Atlantic Slave Trade: Smoking Pipes, Tobacco, and the Middle Passage

2008 (Jerome S. Handler) “Aspects of the Atlantic Slave Trade: Smoking Pipes, Tobacco, and the Middle Passage.” African Diaspora Archaeology Newsletter. June.

This paper briefly addresses tobacco consumption and pipe smoking in Western Africa, and the relevance of these practices to the Atlantic slave trade as well as to the material culture of captive Africans during their forced passage to the New World.

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From West Africa to Barbados: A Rare Pipe from a Plantation Slave Cemetery

2007 (J. Handler and N. Norman) “From West Africa to Barbados: A Rare Pipe from a Plantation Slave Cemetery.” African Diaspora Archaeology Newsletter. September.

Discusses a distinctive short-stemmed earthenware pipe that was excavated in a plantation slave cemetery in Barbados in the early 1970s; since its excavation nothing similar has been reported from African descendant sites in British America. Archaeological and documentary evidence argue for a Gold Coast provenience sometime during the late 17th or early 18th centuries.

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Land Exploitative Activities and Economic Patterns in a Barbados Village

1965 (Jerome S. Handler) Land Exploitative Activities and Economic Patterns in a Barbados Village. Unpublished PhD Dissertation, Brandeis University.

This study is concerned with one sector of the economic life of a small village in the hill area — known as the Scotland District — of the island of Barbados, British West Indies. It will focus upon a description and analysis of the ways in which land resources in and around the village of Chalky Mount are exploited, and upon the kinds of social relationships villagers form in the pursuance of economic activities related to land exploitation. Of secondary, but related, importance is a concern with the ways in which villagers combine their land-based and other economic activities in order to meet their cash and subsistence needs.

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