Master of Arts (M.A.)
This thesis explores the complex relationship between making African Diaspora history and culture visible at Historic Jamestowne, a setting that has historically been seen as "white". The four hundredth anniversary of the forced arrival of Africans in Virginia has created a fraught space to examine African American collective memories of shared history, community and commemoration. This thesis operationalizes Page and Thomas's (1994) "white public space" which describes the utilization of "locations, sites, patterns, configurations or devices that routinely discursively, and sometimes coercively privilege Euro-Americans over nonwhites" (1994: 111). When this concept is applied to the construction of heritage and production of history, it may this be reconceptualized as "white public heritage space". At Jamestown, Jim Crow-era Anglo-Protestant elites created white public heritage space through their interpretation of archaeological sites, objects, historical events, and spaces to reaffirm white supremacist hierarchical views on the past in an effort to naturalize white privilege and structural violence toward non-whites. These formulas of silences construct an uneven past which add to what Tillet describes as "civic estrangement," the feeling of alienation from the "rights and privileges of the contemporary public sphere" (2009:125). For African Americans, civic estrangement further complicates the always complex process of identity formation and negatively affects transnational diasporic relations. To confront early-20th-century misrepresentations, archaeologists and heritage professionals at Jamestown have begun engaging the local descendant African American community in collective knowledge production centered around Angela, one of the first African women that lived at Jamestown in the 1620s. This method draws upon critical praxis as it aims to reconstruct traditional power relationships in archaeological production of histories and identities. Here, the Angela Site is foregrounding the life and influences of one of the first "invisible" African women to have lived and labored in the colony. Connecting postcolonial theory and community-collaborative methods, this thesis explores the production of dominant histories, plausible alternative interpretations of the colonial past, and relationships between heritage sites and local descendant communities.
© The Author
Reid, LaMarise C., "“It's Not about Us": The Erasure of African American Heritage and the Rehistoricization of the First Africans on Jamestown Island, Virginia" (2019). Dissertations, Theses, and Masters Projects. William & Mary. Paper 1593092071.