4 education
4 research
4 outreach
4 dialogue

A-Rare Achievement

Washington Underground: Archaeology in Downtown Washington, DC, a walking and metro guide to the past...

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DC Archaeology Tour Contents

Locator Map
Archaeology in DC
Urban Archaeology
A-Rare Achievement
B-Self Medication
D-Crowded Housing
E-Pardon Our Dust
F-Safe Water
H-Path of History
I-2nd Hand Economy
J-Oldest Profession
Making Do
Other Sites
For More Information

A - Rare Achievement

Location:  Convention Center at Mt. Vernon Square (see MAP) Metro: Mt. Vernon Square Station (Green-Yellow Lines)

(see additional informational links below)

How would you live under "black codes" that restricted your activities and the occupations open to you? You would probably be careful to carry your certificate of freedom with you to protect you from being kidnapped and sold into slavery.

Although many rights were denied, it was legal in Washington for people of color to own property and a small number managed to do so. In 1840 Smith Harley, an African-American well-digger, paid $400 for a new row house on 8th Street near the corner of L Street. He and his wife Ellen lived there with their two children until they sold their property in 1850. George Garrison, who worked as a waiter and whitewasher, bought the house next door in the same year. Garrison’s name appears in the Manumission and Emancipation Record. Mrs. Ann Miller of Georgetown certified that she’d known Garrison since his infancy and that he was born free.

A very limited amount of archaeology tells us that the Harleys and Garrisons owned pretty much the same household objects as their white neighbors. The Harleys and the Garrisons are, so far, the only pre-Civil War free people of color that archaeologists can associate directly with excavated remains. Such finds are an important foundation for archaeology in the District and will be useful as more examples are found to build up a more complete picture of life in the city before the Civil War.

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Washington Underground:
Archaeology in Downtown Washington, DC,
a walking and metro guide to the past...
was produced cooperatively by the National Park Service, National Center for Cultural Resources, Archeology and Ethnography Program; the District of Columbia Office of Planning, Historic Preservation Office; the Center for Heritage Resource Studies, University of Maryland, College Park; and the Society for American Archaeology.

Additional Links

African-Americans in Washington

A Short History of Black Washington (from Progressive Review)
Black Codes (from Progressive Review)
Emancipation Day, Washington, DC

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