Christopher P. Barton

Oct 25, 2023

The Archaeology of Race and Class at Timbuctoo

A Black Community in New Jersey

University Press of Florida 2023

The Archaeology of Race and Class at Timbuctoo: A Black Community in New Jersey (UP of Florida, 2023) is the first book to examine the historic Black community of Timbuctoo, New Jersey, which was founded in 1826 by formerly enslaved migrants from Maryland and served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. In collaboration with descendants and community members, Christopher Barton explores the intersectionality of life at Timbuctoo and the ways Black residents resisted the marginalizing structures of race and class.

Despite some support from local Quaker abolitionists, the people of Timbuctoo endured strained relationships with neighboring white communities, clashes with slave catchers, and hostilities from the Ku Klux Klan. Through a multiscalar approach that ranges from landscape archaeology and settlement patterns to analysis of consumer artifacts, this book demonstrates how residents persevered to construct their own identities and navigate poverty. Barton incorporates oral histories from community elders that offer insights into the racial tensions of the early- to mid-twentieth century and convey the strong, lasting character of the community in the face of repression.

Weaving together memories and inherited accounts, current archaeological investigations, historical records, and comparisons to nearby Black-established communities of the era, this book illuminates the everyday impacts of slavery and race relations in a part of the country that seemed to promise freedom and highlights the use of archaeology as a medium for social activism.

Christopher P. Barton, associate professor of archaeology at Francis Marion University, is the editor of Trowels in the Trenches: Archaeology as Social Activism.

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