Slavery before Race: Europeans, Africans, and Indians at Long Island's Sylvester Manor Plantation, 1651-1884

By Katherine Howlett Hayes | Go to book overview

6/Unimagining Communities

Artifacts, unseen archives, and anecdotal histories thus act to introduce doubt, to disrupt the grand narratives of race. They await our willingness to see them and our ability to recognize them as ruptures. If we give attention to the haunting figures and conspicuous historical silences and juxtapose those silences with the reconstructed archaeological facts and the unremarked archival materials, then could we reassemble different stories? In my own narrative, I have tried to focus on the many elisions, failures to record or preserve, selective silences, outright destructions, and narrative erasures that have rendered us unable to gain a clear perspective on the plantation at Sylvester Manor. When these issues are presented with the archaeological material—the abandoned materiality of the plantation—we are able to see traces of what other stories might have been. But even our new interpretations will slide into the racialized historical episteme that has been constructed around the colonial and plantation foundations of the United States if we do not attend to the ongoing effects of racial discourse to contemporary perspectives. In many ways, this is not a story about race; rather, it is a story about how race came to shape the way histories were and are told. It is a story told not just by the amateur or local white historians but also by scholars and descendants of all the plantation residents. There is a difference, however, in why. Such narratives are not just passive reflections; instead, they bring coherence to a sense of identity for the authors and their readers.

My concern here is not just how social memory is created, but how exclusion and forgetting are crucial aspects of that creation. Certain

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Slavery before Race: Europeans, Africans, and Indians at Long Island's Sylvester Manor Plantation, 1651-1884
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • Figures and Table xi
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Prologue xvii
  • 1- Tracing a Racialized History 1
  • 2- Convergence 17
  • 3- Building and Destroying 57
  • 4- Objects of Interaction 86
  • 5- Forgetting to Remember, Remembering to Forget 121
  • 6- Unimagining Communities 163
  • Epilogue 181
  • Notes 183
  • Bibliography 187
  • Index 215
  • About the Author 221
  • Early American Places 222
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