ANTH 3420 Urban Archaeology OER

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ANTH 3420 Urban Archaeology OER

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Week 10: Weeksville Field trip

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    Kelly M Britt

    For those attending the Weeksville field trip, write a response from your field trip highlighting one aspect of trip that ties into a reading or topic we have discussed we have done this semester.


    nolcie pierre

    Prior to this class, I had no knowledge of the Weeksville Heritage Center or of the great community that was Weeksville. I along with several other students from England got a chance to watch an informative video on the origins and community understandings of Weeksville. Through the video and small discussions I learned that Weeksville was founded in 1838 by free African Americans. It was very important to own land in the 19th century and those who had the ability to buy land made sure other African Americans had the same access. Our tour guides showed us an 1838 era Newspapers that urged African American to buy land in the Brooklyn’s 9th ward. I learned that Weeksville was like a safe haven for many African American freeman. It protected its members from many dangers throughout the years like The Irish Draft Riot’s of 1863  During that time there was a lot of tension between African Americans and Irish Americans which rooted in socioeconomic strife. Poor Irishmen took out their aggression on poor African Americans and blamed them for the draft, their poverty, and the war in general. Thankfully, the riots never spread inside of the weeksville area because the men who lived their defended their territory with guns, knives, rakes, and other weaponry.

    Not only did those in Weeksville face a physical fight but they also fought back stereotypes and misrepresentations of their people and their community. Later in the 1960’s and 1970’s there was a movement for African Americans to rediscover their history, one that reached across an ocean to the continent of Africa. During this movement, some people weren’t really sure what part of Africa they came from (the continent of Africa has 54 countries inside of it) so they researched many African cultures and chose to follow East African language and West African Arts and Dances. Their determination in self preservation and African preservation led them to raise many intelligent and powerful men and women who became the greatest political activists of their time. Newspapers like “The North Star” and “The crisis” by Fredrick Douglas and W.E.B. DuBois, were an integral part in the growth of Weeksville because inside, it housed vital pieces of information like the Alphabet and proverbs, that strengthened the African Americans mind and spirit.


    Reflection—Weeksville Fieldtrip

    For those attending the Weeksville field trip, write a response from your field trip highlighting one aspect of trip that ties into a reading or topic we have discussed this semester.

    On Tuesday, October 29, I and a few of my classmates went on a fieldtrip to the Weeksville Heritage Center located in Brooklyn, New York.  On the tour of the heritage center, we were accompanied by a college group from England.   We watched a movie from the late 1960s/early 1970s about the excavation of the Weeksville community and how the local black population was working with the archaeologists in order to regain their pride and reconnect with their history.  The archaeologists started the excavation as part of a rescue archaeology project before area was cleared for new housing constructed under the Model Cities Program.  The documentary focused mainly on community activism rather than the results of the excavation, which was ongoing at the time of the filming.  In doing research on the site, both historically and through artifacts excavated at the site and oral histories, it was found that to be a medium sized, self-contained but vibrant community which began forming just after slavery was abolished in New York State.  The Weeksville community was created as a refuge from all the extreme racism black people suffered at the time, especially during the draft riots that occurred during the Civil War.  During the tour, we went inside three Weeksville houses that were decorated to look as they would have during different eras of the community’s existence.  After the tour of the homes, we attended a lecture by Professor Kelly Britt about land use and gentrification.  After the lecture, we split up into groups to make visual models of our ideal city/use of space.  My group used crayons to draw a simple layout of an ideal city and made a model of the same ideal city.  The model was better in that it allowed one to view the connections between the different city sectors more easily.

    The three homes were preserved through community activism.  The homes were selected due to their age and the fact that each one had a rich oral history.  The archaeological site has been filled in and has been built over with an incredibly tastelessly designed building which does not match the surrounding buildings architecturally and is also quite tall compared to the buildings surrounding it.

    Our trip ties into the two topics of community inclusion in archaeology and gentrification.  Community activism was important in supporting the excavation and essential to the preservation of the homes and also in the creation of the new center building, which was completed a few years ago, although the excavation itself ended a few decades ago.  In my personal opinion, Weeksville represents an archaeological ideal where you preserve parts of history, you include and educate the community on their history and you have a center that continues to outreach and educate.  According to both the Britt lecture and the center tour, the new building right next door to the center is meant for high end residential, not something that the original community could afford.  Gentrification is a major ongoing threat to the existence of cultural communities in Brooklyn and the rest of New York City.  We can only be thankful that some part of Weeksville community has been preserved through the heritage center.


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    Kellen Gold

    One of the things I learned on the trip to the Weeksville Heritage Center was that the community around the building was heavily involved with the excavation of the village during the 1960s. This relates to Leone’s chapter, “African America,” where the community also took part in excavation of an African American household. I really enjoyed the discussions my group had with the employees of the Center. One of the goals of the Weeksville Heritage Center has been to create a continuum of African history – “a part of Africa is here in Brooklyn too.” Also discussed was the Center’s struggle to become part of the NYC Cultural Institutions Group, which will help ensure consistent funding from year to year, although they also hope to create a way for the community to sustain and aid itself, as the residents of Weeksville did.


    Kelly M Britt

    Nice reflections! Thank you all for coming!

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