Consumption in Freedman's Town

Map of Freedman's TownThe archaeological evidence at Freedman's Town suggests that inhabitants navigated complex social and consumer spheres. Buying both locally produced and nationally-branded goods, collecting fine ceramics, and eating a range of different qualities of meat suggests that the people of Freedman's Town navigated through the struggles of a post-emancipation world in many different ways. After locating remnants of these consumer activities, it is easy to imagine the people of Freedman's Town drinking tea as a family in the backyard or purchasing goods at local stores in the thriving community. Like with all archaeological research, though, data from Freedman's Town poses more questions than it answers. Archaeology at Freedman's Town can help us to better understand urban African-American life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Houston.

About the project

This project was created by Kaitlyn Sisk as a capstone project for her major in Anthropology from Rice University. All data was collected through the Rice University Archaeological Field Techniques classes' spring excavations in Freedman's Town between 2008-2013 through the collaboration with the Yates Museum and the Community Archaeology Research Institute. Although many excavations have taken place in Freedman's Town over the past few years, the data has yet to be pulled together and comprehensively analyzed on a larger scale. This project is not only an attempt to see how consumption patterns in Freedman's Town compare to other urban sites across the United States, but also a way to share a part of the history of this significant town with current residents of the Fourth Ward, the Rice community, and the greater Houston area.

Excavations by Rice University
A Rice University student sifting for artifacts

Community Archaeology in Freedman's Town

In 1984, Freedman's Town was designated as a national historic district. Despite this, only 30 registered historic properties remain of the original 530 sites. The Rutherford B. H. Yates Museum strives to preserve the remaining historic sites, to collect and reconstruct the history of Freedman's Town, and to reach out to the community to facilitate education about the community. Much of this research has been carried out through the Yates Community Archaeology Program (YCAP). Since 2001, YCAP has conducted research in Freedman's Town and fostered community participation in recovering history through curriculum development and youth outreach. The R. B. H. Yates Museum is currently the home of the YCAP historical archaeology lab.

Community archaeology
Community archaeology at the Yates Museum

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About the Project

Community Archaeology in Freedman's Town

Bibliography