My final project for my Historical Archaeology course is a personal narrative formed by historical records and an assemblage recovered from a site in Andover, MA. The site is called the Lucy Foster Homesite, also known as “Black Lucy’s Garden”, which was excavated in 1942 by Ripley and Adelaide Bullen (Martin, 107). The areas that were excavated were the cellar hole, dump, well, vegetable cellar, and lumbermen’s shack on Lucy Fosters acre (Martin, 107). Although these areas all contributed to Lucy’s daily life in someway the only portion of Lucy’s home that still existed was the cellar hole (Martin, 107). The assemblage recovered from this site include material culture that is linked to socializing, labor, and food resources. In the past there has been a lot of focus on the ceramics from this assemblage because it is quite large. They recovered 113 reconstructed ceramics from the Lucy Foster Homesite (Martin, 107). Most of which were serving dishes.
It may seem obvious that Lucy Foster was entertaining members of her community based on the significant amount of serving dishes in this assemblage. But the original response to this assemblage was, how did she acquire such a large collection living in poverty? Assuming she lived in poverty because she was black and received financial assistance from the parish. But I think we are missing a major part of her life by only focusing on how she came to have this collection. I believe it is more important to know what she was doing with her ceramics and why a large collection would be important to her. This brings me to my goal for this project. I want to highlight the racial bias that is layered into the interpretation of Lucy Foster and her life. In return I would also like to offer an interpretation that recognizes her ability to cope with adversity and survive. In order to do this I will need to write two personal narratives from both perspectives. It is my hope that seeing these perspectives side by side may encourage others to identify the layers of bias that are woven into historical records and research. By recognizing these biases we can develop more accurate interpretations of the past and create an opportunity for communities to heal from the pain created by these distorted perspectives.
Martin, Anthony. “Homeplace Is Also Workplace: Another Look at Lucy Foster in Andover, Massachusetts.” Historical Archaeology, vol. 52, no. 1, 2018, pp. 100–112.