Archaeologist Perry to lecture on captive Africans in colonial Northeast
April 16 talk at Western to discuss New York African Burial Ground and other projects

DANBURY, CONN. Dr. Warren Perry, director of the Archaeology Laboratory of African and African Diaspora Studies (ALAADS) at Central Connecticut State University, will discuss his field research exploring the history of captive Africans in the colonial Northeast in a lecture at noon on Tuesday, April 16, 2013, at Western Connecticut State University.

Perry, who also serves as professor of anthropology and co-director of the Center for Africana Studies at CCSU, will present an overview of the laboratory’s participation in pioneering archaeological research projects at the 18th century New York African Burial Ground as well as several historical sites in Connecticut. Perry will present his talk, “Captive Africans in Colonial New York and Connecticut: An Overview of Archaeological Research Projects Conducted at CCSU,” in Room 102 of Warner Hall on Western’s Midtown campus, 181 White St. in Danbury. The lecture will be free and the public is invited.

As the former director of archaeology for the New York project, Perry has played an important role in the research work to uncover and study the lower Manhattan site of burials dating back to the early 1700s. The African Burial Ground, discovered in 1991 during construction of a federal office building, is believed to represent the oldest African cemetery ever excavated at an urban location in the United States. In 1993 the burial ground was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and in 2006 the memorial site of the cemetery was declared a National Monument.

Under Perry’s direction, the CCSU laboratory also has undertaken field research at several locations in Connecticut that have yielded significant contributions to understanding of the history and culture of captive Africans in colonial America. These projects have included excavations at the New Salem Plantation in Salem, Conn., and the investigation of artifacts and search for DNA evidence at the Haddam Neck burial site of the family of Venture Smith, an African enslaved and transported to America as a child in the 1730s who ultimately purchased freedom for himself, his wife and children.

The ALAADS website describes the goal of the laboratory’s research as seeking “to understand the political economy of race and class” and to reach “a more accurate and holistic reconstruction, interpretation and contextual understanding of the everyday lives and deaths of Africans in the colonial Northeast.” Cultural artifacts excavated and preserved for study at these archaeological dig sites also have enabled researchers “to make comparisons for investigating African people in Africa and throughout the diaspora living under diverse conditions of captivity,” the website notes.

In addition to his projects in the United States, Perry has conducted research in historical archaeology in southern Africa, combining site work with diverse tools including aerial and satellite images, settlement analysis, archival study and oral histories. As director of the Iron Age Archaeological Survey in Swaziland, he broke new research ground in his excavations at the sites of villages of early Swazi kings.

Recipient of a Ph.D. in anthropology from the City University of New York, Perry is the author of “Landscape Transformations and the Archaeology of Impact: Social Disruption and State Formation in Southern Africa.” He is the co-editor of two books about the archaeological research conducted at the New York African Burial Ground. He also has published a number of articles in scholarly journals and contributed several book chapters.

For more information, contact WCSU Professor of Anthropology Dr. Laurie Weinstein at (203) 837-8453.

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