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Archaeology of Identity and DissonanceContexts for a Brave New World$
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Diane F. George  and Bernice Kurchin

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780813056197

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813056197.001.0001

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Constructing Identity in Seneca Village

Constructing Identity in Seneca Village

(p.157) 8 Constructing Identity in Seneca Village
Archaeology of Identity and Dissonance

Diana Dizerega Wall

Nan A. Rothschild

Meredith B. Linn

University Press of Florida

This chapter explores the issue of identity in Seneca Village, a nineteenth-century, middle-class, black community located in what is now Central Park in New York City. The city evicted the residents in 1857, and until recently this important village was forgotten. Using information from historical documents and material culture (including landscaping and both the form and decoration of dishes) excavated from the site in 2011, this study examines the intersection of class, race, and nationality. The evidence suggests that the identity of at least one family there was made of many strands: they may have identified themselves as members of the black middle class, as Americans, as African Americans, and perhaps even as Africans, depending on the situation and the audience. Skillful use of these strands may have been one way in which this and other village families attempted to ameliorate oppression and to make a place for themselves.

Keywords:   Central Park, Seneca Village, Black middle class

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