Archaeology and history in the study of African-Americans
This chapter discusses some theoretical issues pertaining to death and social identity and then presents a summary of ongoing research on African-influenced burial practices in Antebellum Philadelphia to illustrate the expression of African community identity in the context of burial. It argues that European objects were given new, African-influenced, and socially charged meanings reflecting a uniquely African-American sociocultural identity. The archaeology of cemeteries is concerned both with burial practices and the wealth of information available from the osteological record. The two cemeteries associated with the First African Baptist Church (FABC) were excavated preceding the construction of the Vine Street Expressway, a six-lane, depressed grade highway running through central Philadelphia. Population growth, ethnic diversification, and social distinction were part and parcel of the economic changes transforming the city at this time. Philadelphia became the largest and most important center of free African-American life in the United States of America (USA).