Yummy, yummy documents. Friday, Jul 30 2010 

There is one thing I do have in common with archaeologists like Alexandra Chan.  I spend more time than the average person would care to digging through archives and libraries.  Therefore, big ups must go to Library at 121 Hope St, Providence.  It was there I uncovered more detail than I ever thought I would about the particulars of the Brown family dealingts.  Way more detail.

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Photos from Newport Friday, Jul 30 2010 

Newport, Rhode Island.  The epitome of a resort community.  Sparkling blue waters, stately and striking mansions, upscale and unaffected residents and tourists wearing their wealth with the ease of old pros.  Behind the scenes, however, lurks the legacy of chattel slavery.  Let’s examine some photos, shall we?

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In which the good doctor has self-doubt and realizes he’ll never be a teen model. Wednesday, Jul 28 2010 

I have a viable research question.  I have some primary sources.  I’ve conducted interviews, formulated hypotheses and toyed with theory.  Aside from extensive archaeological training, access to excavation tools and knowledge of how to maneuver the beaurocratic process in order to get approval for digging at a historical site I can’t think of too much I don’t have.  Oh yeah — lots and lots of funding. 

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John Brown: Large and Loud Wednesday, Jul 28 2010 

“Now over on your left you can see a reproduction of John Brown’s carriage.  He would use this on longer trips.”  The docent leaned against one of the wheels.  It was a good head taller than he was.  I estimated that I beat its diameter by only an inch or two.  “It is much larger than carriages of its type, partially due to Brown’s obesity in his later years and partially due to his desire to impress.”  John Brown and Isaac Royall, I thought to myself.  Two “nouveau riche” peas in a pod.

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Not that John Brown Tuesday, Jul 27 2010 

So . . . after a trip to Rhode Island and then another trip to Buffalo, catching up on a full week of work, unpacking, doing laundry, finding a new apartment and cleaning my room, I am finally back to typing up my research notes.  The good news?  There are a lot of them, and they’re backed up, so I have plenty to keep myself occupied until my next trip to Providence!  Which means I should be posting these on a more regular basis.  Um.  Yey?

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My dentist isn’t the only one who doesn’t like plaque. Tuesday, Jul 13 2010 

Hey fans (and by “fans” I mean “fan” and by “fan” I mean “the Russian brides proposing to me in my comment section”).  My research excursion to Providence and Newport was a success, and I look forward to subsequent trips down there to follow up on some leads.  Special thanks to M, who hosted my lazy ass for a night and let me have the use of his car while cramming for his exams.  Expect pictures soon, particularly ones of me tempting supernatural fate!

Today, however, I feel compelled to address a news item.  It’s a month old, but the fact that I — a news junkie — have not heard of it until now is in and of itself a testament to how troublesome said news item is.  I vent bile, below the fold.

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Eating Like a Slave Friday, Jul 9 2010 

If there is one thing I am undeniably good at, it’s eating.  Since I was a toddler I’ve been able to eat more-or-less my body weight thanks to a freakishly high metabolism (it’s not as good at is it sounds, by the way).  Moreover, if there’s anything that’s universal to the human experience, it’s eating; everyone needs to eat.  Claude Levi-Strauss, the founder of American Anthropology, theorized that an integral part of cognitive development was categorizing which plants and animals were good to eat and which ones weren’t.  He opined further that food preparation — particularly cooking — was just as significant a cultural achievement for early hominids (see The Raw and the Cooked).  Below the fold, my oh-so-failed attempt at ingesting part of what it was like to be a slave.

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More photos from the Royall House Tuesday, Jul 6 2010 

Attached, more photos from my trip and tour of the Royall House.  Enjoy!

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“Slaves” versus “Enslaved Africans” Saturday, Jul 3 2010 

In The Partly Cloudy Patriot Sarah Vowell describes a tour she took of Salem, MA.  Walking past one farm’s slave quarters she notes that her tour guide, a teenager with an upward canting voice that “puts every sentence into the interrogative,” gestures to them calling them “where the enslaved Africans lived.”

Vowell is taken aback.  Thinking it’s an overly PC term she asks why they’re not just termed “slaves.”  The tour guide responds “we’re trying to point out that it’s not all they were.  Vowell opines that she “gets it” but is critical of the neologism.  After all, when one is a slave, the point is that “that’s all you are.”  Moreover changes in terminology such as “enslaved Africans” can have the unfortunate consequence of downplaying the sheer horror of the situation in favor of the comfort of modern sensibilities.

I mention Vowell’s account because, when touring the Royall house, the docent referred to “enslaved Africans” rather than slaves.  It was the first time I’d heard it in person and I began wondering is this a New England slavery thing?  Or perhaps it’s unique to the farm? There was only one way to find out.

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I’ve decided to think of them as “challenges.” Friday, Jul 2 2010 

There are a few longstanding issues I find myself running headlong into again and again as I do this topic, and I am sure that they are not at all unique to my field or myself as a scholar.  Some of them pertain to the topic itself.  Some of them pertain to me as a researcher in relation to that topic.  All of them occasionally make me want to throw my laptop out the window.

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