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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Hoodoo in Annapolis

From The Washington Post (free registration required):

Sifting through the debris of an 18th-century townhouse being renovated in Annapolis last month, the archaeologist and his students found what they were looking for under the brick floor near the kitchen hearth. There, in a shallow five-inch pit, lay eight bent nails, a clear glass spindle, a plate of glass etched with a checkerboard design and a white pierced disk the size of a 50-cent piece. What University of Maryland archaeologist Mark Leone and his team of students had discovered was evidence of hoodoo, a New World variant of ancient West African mystical traditions carried across the Atlantic by black slaves. The practice, meant to influence healing and ward off misfortune, was continued well into the 20th century by freed descendants who lived and worked in the homes of wealthy white families as cooks, launderers and gardeners. But Leone's research in Annapolis has raised an intriguing question: Scholars have yet to find hoodoo artifacts in homes owned and rented by the city's emerging black middle class in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In other words, while poorer blacks were keeping hoodoo alive, upwardly mobile African Americans were abandoning it. "That's not to say that middle-class African Americans were giving up their African traditions, but they were finding different ways to express it," said Leone, who has led much of the research in Annapolis for the past 25 years.
Good article well worth reading and for finding inspiration for fiction.


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