Passing for Black in Seventeenth-Century Maryland

  • Julia A. King
  • Edward E. Chaney
Part of the Contributions To Global Historical Archaeology book series (CGHA)


In the Chesapeake region of the United States, archaeologists (including ourselves) typically organize the men and women who made up colonial society into one of three categories: European, African, or Native American. Although these three categories at one time were conflated with skin color, today, they are conceived primarily (although not always) in terms of ancestry or origin. Archaeologists have used these categories to document and interpret social life in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and to understand the nature and origins of attitudes toward difference, especially racial and ethnic difference. The best of this work has revealed a range of responses to post-Contact life in the region. Enslaved Africans, for example, were able to use material culture to exert some control over their material and spiritual lives.


Seventeenth Century European Ancestry African Ancestry Indenture Servant Tobacco Pipe 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to begin by expressing our appreciation to Iris Carter Ford, who helped frame the problem concerning Mathias de Sousa, and Douglas H. Ubelaker, who very generously analyzed the human skeletal remains from the Patuxent Point site. Many other people provided us with ideas and directions as we grappled with interpreting difference in the seventeenth century, including Michael L. Blakey, Marley R. Brown III, Thomas L. Crist, Fatimah Jackson, and Patricia Samford. We are also grateful to Chad Braley and Beverly Straube for sharing their data. Funding for the Patuxent Point excavations was provided by the Maryland Historical Trust, and the site’s interpretation was partially supported with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (RZ–20896–02). A generous Faculty Development Grant from St. Mary’s College of Maryland supported the genetic testing of the skeletal remains from Burial 18. Finally, Mary Beaudry made sure we finished this essay, and we thank her and Jim Symonds for including us in this project.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologySt. Mary’s College of MarylandSt. Mary’s CityUSA
  2. 2.Maryland Archaeological Conservation LaboratoryJefferson Patterson Park and MuseumSt. LeonardUSA

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