Providing a Voice to Those who Cannot Speak: The Use of the Digital Archaeological Record in Charting the Evolution of the African-American Community
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In order to understand the foundations of African-American culture, one must look beyond the meager amount of written records available to researchers and study evidence that many scholars consider unconventional including archaeological records, maps, and oral traditions. Such non-traditional sources become more commonplace with the increased use of social media and Web 2.0 databases, and help to fill the gaps in the historical record of the African-American community as well as encourage contemporary generations of African Americans to learn about their heritage. The following pages document an experiment in public history, academic history, and archaeology, to reconstruct what life for the slave and the freedman looked like and to bring recognition to important landmarks in African-American history that faded away over the course of time. Archaeologists and other cultural resource professionals pioneer the creation, preservation, and sharing of such data that improves the understanding of African-American history, and identifies the transfer of traditions, an idea of community organizing, and the virtues of self-reliance and nationalism extending from ancient African empires to contemporary society. The author intends his GIS project, “African Heritage in Alabama,” to illuminate such factors and unite cultural institutions throughout the state toward a common purpose of fostering pride in African-American heritage.