This forum brings together scholars whose research investigates the relationship between the African diaspora, Afro-descendants, and the built environment of North America and the Caribbean from a variety of lenses that are specific to the scholars’ fields of inquiry. The goal is to begin to expand the field of landscape history by taking into consideration questions that are not always deemed central to the practice of design, if design is understood as an activity that has featured—in the historical narratives—the presence of an author-designer, a client, and a variety of tools the former has used to communicate ideas about form, materials and use, to the latter.
By its very cross-disciplinary nature and topical organization, this forum questions a traditional mode of history writing that is based both on the description of linear developments and on the exclusive use of archival and written sources. Instead it argues for a relational historiography that considers what methods and what traces—written, spoken, or material, and whether found on the land’s surface or below—may allow us to tell the story of the Black North American and Caribbean landscape of enslaved people, maroons and freemen. Without arguing for the obliteration of what is already known about the landscape of plantations and the settlements of early America, essays presented at this symposium will ultimately produce a landscape history that, paraphrasing Èdouard Glissant, is latent, open, multicultural in intention, and directly in contact with everything possible.
Panel Discussion 1, moderated by Jarvis McInnis
Hoeing, Harvesting, Healing & Hexing: The Earth and its Cultivation as Tools of Resistance to Enslavement
Forgotten Witnesses: Exploring Archaeological Sites of Labor at a Presidential Plantation
James French and Matthew Reeves
Anne Bouie was born in Birmingham, Alabama; she grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, and was deeply affected by the beauty and culture she experienced during summers on her grandparents’ farm in Florida. Her family lived in six states and she had attended seven schools by the fifth grade before settling in Riverside, California, where she grew up, and eventually graduated from the University of California there. She left southern California and moved to the Bay Area to enter the graduate School of Education at Stanford University, where she earned a Ph.D. in Administration & Policy Analysis, a Master’s degree in Secondary Education, and a Master’s degree in African-American History. As a mixed media, assemblage artist, Ms. Bouie has exhibited at the Honfluer Gallery, Galarie Myrtis, the Nevin Kelly Gallery, Millennium Salon, and the D.C. Arts Center. She has also participated in exhibits in California, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and India.
James French founded the Montpelier Descendants Committee (MDC) and joined the Board of The Montpelier Foundation (TMF) in 2019. The MDC educates the public about the social, intellectual and economic contributions to the nation’s founding of enslaved Americans across Central Virginia, including at James Madison’s plantation, Montpelier. Mr. French strenuously advocated for power sharing to a largely resistant board and led the MDC in achieving structural parity with The Montpelier Foundation by innovating a widely applicable model for resolving legacy power imbalances in organizations.
Matthew Reeves is the Director of Archaeology at James Madison’s Montpelier in Orange, Virginia. His specialty is sites of the African Diaspora including plantation and freedman period sites, and Civil War. In his 20 years at Montpelier, Reeves has developed a strong public archaeology program known for its citizen science approach to research. At the heart of this program is community-based research with a heavy focus on investing descendant communities in the research and interpretation process and governance of cultural institutions.
Jarvis C. McInnis is the Cordelia & William Laverack Family Assistant Professor of English at Duke University. He is an interdisciplinary scholar of African American & African Diaspora literature and culture, with teaching and research interests in the global south (primarily the US South and the Caribbean), sound studies, performance studies, visual culture, and the archive. McInnis is currently completing his first book manuscript, tentatively titled, “Afterlives of the Plantation: Aesthetics, Labor, and Diaspora in the Global Black South,” which aims to reorient the geographic contours of black transnationalism and diaspora by interrogating the hemispheric linkages between southern African American and Caribbean artists and intellectuals in the early twentieth century.
00:00 Introduction by Raffaella Fabiani Giannetto
36:40 Panel Introduction by Jarvis McInnis
42:14 Presentation by Anne Bouie
1:06:59 Presentation by Matthew Reeves and James French
1:37:46 Discussion and Q+A