We Were There, Too:
Archaeology of an African- American Family in Sacramento, California

The following report was prepared by the Anthropological Studies Center in 1992. The 136 page printed report has been split into six PDF files to make downloading easier.

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~ Abstract ~

Thomas Cook and his wife escaped slavery by taking the Underground Railroad to Canada prior to the Civil War. In the early 1870s, the family pursued visions of a better life to California, eventually settling in Sacramento. In 1901 the Cook family lived on the alley at 1418-1/2 J Street; Thomas Cook and one son worked as barbers; a daughter worked as a dressmaker. Ninety years later, prior to the construction of an addition to the City's Community/Convention Center, personnel of the Anthropological Studies Center, Sonoma State University, excavated a privy filled with artifacts associated with the Cooks. This monograph presents all of the historical, archaeological, artifactual, and contextual information connected with this site, which is one of the first urban African-American sites excavated in California, if not in the western states generally. The goal of this report is to present the data as a comparative collection. The authors plan to publish further analyses of the Cook site in the future and welcome comments and suggestions on the avenues for this research.


Archaeologists have added a great deal to our understanding of the grim history of enslaved African Americans in the antebellum South. However, the story of blacks who traveled to the cities of the Far West - both free and as escaped slaves - has yet to be told. Although the advancement of African Americans in the urban West was limited by a racist structure, they nonetheless created a sophisticated and urbane culture.

The archaeological remains left by Thomas Cook and his family reflect the household members' daily lives. Archaeological evidence suggests that family members carried on their high status occupations at home during off hours, thereby circumventing the public ban on serving both black and white clientele. A comparison of the Cook assemblage with that of a nearby white household shows similarities that mask the gulf that must have existed between these peoples' lives in early 20th-century Sacramento. The effects of racism, as well as the family's responses to it, can be seen in the archaeological remains left by the Thomas Cook family.

More on this subject...
book
FROM SLAVERY TO FREEDOM: Archaeology of an African-American Family in Sacramento, California
From Slavery to Freedom.pdf (60KB)


(Paper presented at 1994 Annual Meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology)

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Part1.pdf
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Part2.pdf
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Table of Contents

Text

Page #

ABSTRACT

iii
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

v
CHAPTER 1: BACKGROUND
Previous Archaeological Research
Project History
Historical Background
1
 
CHAPTER 2: FINDINGS
History
Archaeology
Artifacts
Mammalian Faunal Remains
Fish Remains
11
 
CHAPTER 3: DISCUSSION
African-American Barbers and Dressmakers
Material culture of an African-American Family in Sacramento
The Question of Meaning
109
 

REFERENCES

125
 

LIST OF MAPS

Map 1: Study Area Location
8
Map 2: Test Locations
9
Map 3: Archaeological Features on 1895 Map
34
Map 4: 1915 Sanborn Map
35
Map 5: Study Area
36
Map 6: Feature 3, Plan View
37
 
LIST OF TABLES
Table 1: Summary of Documentary Data for 1418 and 1418-1/2 J Street
38
Table 2: Layer 31 Artifact Description
40
Table 3: Layer 32-36 Artifact Description
44
Table 4: Layer 37 Artifact Description
87
Table 5: Layer 38 Artifact Description
88
Table 6: Layer 39 Artifact Description
91
Table 7: Date and Origin of Marked Items
93
Table 8: Feature 3 Tableware
94
Table 9: Gender-specific Fasteners
95
Table 10: Bone Counts and Weights for Each Taxa
96
Table 11: Relative Frequencies of Three Types of Butchering Marks
96
Table 12: Comparison of Percent Contributions of Beef, Pork, and Mutton
97
Table 13: Relative Abundance of Meat Cuts
98
Table 14: Relative Abundance of Meat Cuts Used for Different Purposes
99
Table 15: Bone Counts and Weights of Selected Taxa for each Layer by Species
99
Table 16: Feature 3 Fish Remains
100
Table 17: Summary of Tableware, Feature 8 and Feature 3
118
Table 18: Summary of Mary Collins Feature 8 and Thomas Collins Feature 3
119
 
LIST OF FIGURES
Figure 1: Profile through Feature 3
101
Figure 2: Clothing and Jewelry
102
Figure 3: Dolls
103
Figure 4: Containers and Stoppers
104
Figure 5: Relative Abundance of Meat Cuts by value
105
Figure 6: Value of Beef Cuts by Layer
106
Figure 7: Proportion of Beef Steaks by Layer
107
Figure 8: Pie Charts, Artifact Summary by Functional Category
121
Figure 9: Pie Charts, Beef-cut Price Ranges
122
Figure 10: Pie Charts, Beef-cut Yield Ranges
123
Figure 11: Bar Graph, Beef-cut Prices
124
Figure 12: Bar Graph, Beef-cut Yield
124

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