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National discourse on womanhood and mothering in nineteenth century America positioned these fields of women’s practices as sites of privilege for middle-class Anglo-American women, and as inaccessible to their African American contemporaries. After gaining their nominal freedom through New York’s manumission of enslaved individual around 1830, African American families had to confront their new reality to find ways to articulate their position within American society. How then, did the African American women of the Persons family, who occupied the Maple Avenue Parsonage in Germantown, New York during the nineteenth century, confront this new reality? What position within society did they see themselves as inhabiting? And lastly, by what means of agency did they inhabit this position? By employing John Barrett’s archaeology of inhabitation, this study aims to complexly situate material remains recovered from the Parsonage back within the historical context that produced these material conditions, and which act as both medium and by-product of the Persons’ actions. This approach to material analysis reveals that the Persons’ agentic actions actively transform the structural conditions of nineteenth century America, to articulate an African American approach to womanhood and motherhood that hints at values origination outside of American society. This conclusion directly argues against studies which aim to homogenize African American experiences after emancipation.
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Cutter, Cheyenne R., "Mothering on Maple Avenue: An Exploration of African American Women’s Agency in Nineteenth Century Germantown, New York" (2020). Senior Projects Spring 2020. 143.
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