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Maryland Archaeologists Unearth Jesuit Plantation’s 18th-Century Slave Quarters

Historians in the News
tags: slavery, archaeology, Jesuits, Maryland



Archaeologists conducting excavations at a Jesuit plantation in Maryland have unearthed roughly 300-year-old buildings that housed enslaved workers, reports McKenna Oxenden for the Baltimore Sun.

A team from the Maryland Department Transportation State Highway Administration and St. Mary’s College used metal detectors to identify the remains of cabins, broken clay tobacco pipes, ceramic cups and other traces of lives lived on the plantation. The artifacts were buried in farm fields in Leonardtown’s Newtowne Neck State Park, which is home to an 18th-century brick manor once occupied by Jesuit missionaries.

Per a statement, local Reverend Dante Eubanks is one of the many modern descendants of African American individuals enslaved at Newtown Manor.

“To be able to stand in the exact place where my ancestors lived and endured is a powerful experience,” he says. “We need to remember these stories, they are important to our history and healing.”

In 1838, Jesuit priests in the Washington, D.C. area sold more than 272 enslaved people—including those living at the Newtown estate—for the equivalent of about $3.3 million in today’s dollars. Part of the money went toward paying the debts of Georgetown University, then known as Georgetown College. Some enslaved individuals pleaded for rosaries so that they could pray as they were rounded up and loaded onto ships bound for plantations in Louisiana, according to Rachel L. Swarns of the New York Times.

Five years ago, administrators at the D.C. university announced plans to rename residence halls that honored former Georgetown presidents Thomas Mulledy, who authorized the 1838 sale, and William McSherry, who acted as Mulledy’s lawyer during the sale. The news arrived one day after student activists staged a sit-in, as Toby Hung and Ashwin Puri reported for the Hoya at the time, and followed recommendations made by a working group established to study how Georgetown could acknowledge its history and make amends for the past.

“Whether people know that history or whether people think that history is important, that changes from generation to generation,” David Collins, a historian at Georgetown, told WAMU’s Michael Pope following the university’s announcement. “So the Georgetown community is becoming aware again and in a new and deeper way of a history that’s been known for several generations already.”

Read entire article at Smithsonian

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