New Philadelphia: An Archaeology of Race in the Heartland

By Paul A. Shackel | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8
Family Reunion and Division

In January 2005 Smithsonian Magazine ran an article on the archaeology project and mentioned how the notion of harmony had been miscast in the media. However, the New Philadelphia Association still supported the idea of a harmonious past, and through the summers of 2004 and 2005 newspapers increasingly picked up on this issue. Unfortunately the archaeology team was being saddled with the idea that harmony existed in the town. It was a perfect foil that created controversy between some of the descendants and the NPA, both groups with different views of the past. I felt as though we were caught in the middle on this issue. Controversy sells newspapers, and I suspect that differences will continue to highlight some media stories. Dana Mackenzie, the journalist for Smithsonian Magazine, stated Walker’s view:

The “premise that New Philadelphia was a town where blacks and whites
lived in racial harmony … is just not historical reality, any more than to
claim that slaves lived happily on plantations,” argued Juliet Walker….

Shackel denies any attempt to idealize the past. “While the archaeology
will probably not be able to show harmony or disharmony, it can illustrate
the way of life for groups of people living in a biracial community,” he says.
“Archaeology is a way to provide a story of a people who have not been tra-
ditionally recorded in history. Our goal is to tell the story of New Philadel-
phia from the bottom up and provide an inclusive story of the town.”

Despite their disagreements, both Walker and Shackel would like to see
New Philadelphia commemorated by more than a roadside plaque. Walker
envisions rebuilding the town. Shackel, who has the support of the New

-110-

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