The archaeological excavations of the Boston-Higginbotham House, a historic property on York Street, contributed to ongoing efforts spearheaded by the Massachusetts Museum of African American History and UMass Boston to expand public knowledge of African American history in New England. These excavations offer greater insight into the lives and labor of some of Nantucket Island’s most well-known Black residents, Seneca Boston, Absalom Boston, and Florence Higginbotham, and have also illuminated the significance of Black women’s labor to the support and maintenance of their homes and community. This talk will provide an overview of the key findings from the excavations of the Boston-Higginbotham House while describing the hidden labor that Black women often performed in their homes to help their families survive the economic uncertainty of the whaling industry during the nineteenth century. Ultimately, Lee posits that additional archaeological study of Black women’s labor on Nantucket Island has the potential to center the contributions that all women made to the island’s ascendancy as the hub of a global whaling industry.
Nedra K. Lee is an Assistant Professor in the Anthropology department at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin, and her research interests include the archaeology of the African Diaspora, gender, critical race studies, and processes of racial formation during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She has conducted research on historic black sites in Texas that have included extensive collaboration with descendant communities and is excited to expand her research to the past lives and experiences of black people in New England. She has received funding from the Ford Foundation and the Texas Historical Commission. Her research has also been published in the Journal of Historical Archaeology, the Journal of African Diaspora Archaeology and Heritage, and Transforming Anthropology.