Lost, Tossed, and Found
Clues to African-American Life at Manassas National Battlefield Park
Using photographs, illustrations, and maps, this exhibit focuses on the African-American experience, in slavery and freedom, in the immediate vicinity of Manassas National Battlefield Park. Archeological survey and excavations at the battlefield resulted in the discovery of structural remains and a diversity of artifacts associated with nineteenth-century African-American life. The architectural features range from communal, antebellum-slave quarters (Brownsville) to post-Civil War single family houses (the Nash Site). Artifacts include an African heirloom – a carved, ebony finger ring – ceramic gaming pieces used in the African-derived game of Mancala, hand-built, low-fired earthenware bowls used and, perhaps, made by African-Americans, blue glass beads worn or sewn on clothing to protect the wearer against "the evil eye," and quartz crystals possibly used to predict the future or in curing rites. Analysis of the architectural features and artifacts provides new insights into the adaptation of African slaves to their New World environment and to the survival of African-inspired customs and traditions in the post-Civil War period.
Information and objects from the National Park Service archeological investigations have contributed directly to recent scholarly research and public interpretation, such as the Museum of the Confederacy's special exhibit "Before Freedom Came: African-American Life in the Antebellum South," the accompanying book of the same title published jointly by the Museum of the Confederacy and the University Press of Virginia, and a special exhibit titled "Pitchers, Pots & Pipkins: Clues to Plantation Life," sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution.