Oldest Black Community In US Uncovered, Built By Freed Slaves

The oldest black community is believed to have been found in a dig site in Maryland. Archaeologists say it was settled and built by freed slaves dating back to 1790.

The site is being called The Hill. If the new findings are correct, it means The Hill could predate Treme, Louisiana. Treme is usually believed to be the first settlement of free African-Americans, dated to 1812.

The new dig, in Easton in the Eastern Shore area of Maryland, could prove important to black history in the United States. But as one expert put it, “It’s not just a black story. It’s an American story.”

A team of researchers and students are in the middle of a three week dig in a site owned by the Talbot Count Woman’s Club, reports the Baltimore Sun. So far, they have discovered some fascinating things.

An early census of the area showed that The Hill had around 410 free African-Americans in 1790. Scientists at the dig site are finding evidence backing up claims that The Hill was the oldest black community in the United States.

There former slaves who had been emancipated by their owners lived and worked the land. Most of them came from Quakers who felt religiously compelled to free their slaves. There they built homes and raised free families. The Washington Post says evidence shows that not only were there free black families living in the area, but white families too.

In the first layer of soil, the dig found more recent items, like plastic trash from the 20th century. Digging even deeper reveals artifacts from residents dating back to late 18th and early 19th century. One included a decorated green glass bottle made in a hand-blown mold. Coin money were found in residencies too.

Perhaps the largest piece of evidence that this was a free black community was the signs of land work. The Hill had no plantation. So whoever was working it was not a slave or an indentured servant. Records show that, at least before 1790, most of The Hill was owned by a white man, James Price. But it is still unclear whether he sold it or rented it out to the families who would live there later.

Researchers are finding that the oldest black community, found in Maryland, had more freed persons than even Baltimore.

[Image via Wessex Archaeology via photopin cc]