African American Resistance, Social Control, and the Spiritual Alteration of the Physical Environment
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Archaeologists have unearthed artifacts associated with West African-derived spiritual belief systems in many different African American locations in the New World. What can the artifacts tell us about the social control mechanisms used within enslaved plantation quarters communities to maintain internal cohesion and collective identity? In enslaved plantation quarters, where oppression and a harsh living environment were the foundation of a new collective cultural identity, the possibility of social control existed not just between the enslaved community and their oppressors, but also among their own community as a means of maintaining harmony and managing internal conflict. Ethnographic, historical, and archaeological data associated with African American praise houses and churches and the medicine of curers and conjurers are used in this study to interpret their roles in social control. The first objective of this study establishes the need for social control among the enslaved and freed African American communities through ethnographic analysis of the Gullah and Geechee cultures, who, due to their geographically isolated conditions, have maintained many West African cultural traditions. The second portion of this study uses the archaeological evidence of West African-derived ritual deposits from the Jordan Plantation slave quarters and main house yard in Brazoria County, Texas to examine how the Jordan Plantation enslaved community attempted to socially control their environment beyond the slave quarters.