Curatorial Practice

With These Hands: Artifacts of the Enslaved People of Mount Clare

Crystal quarts piece found in what is believed to have been a minkisi medicinal and protective bundle.

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This exhibition showcases the artifacts of the Mount Clare Plantation, expressly the objects that allow for an alternate interpretation of its cultural landscape. Through approximately thirty years of archaeological excavations, artifacts from many eras of the property’s history have been unearthed. Some of the most important finds have been objects that allow us to interpret the lives of the African and African American enslaved people during their ownership by the Carroll family.

It shifts the focus from European American history to African American history, from owner to enslaved. The personal narratives of slavery are often ignored in favor of the legacy of the white colonial elite, effectively erasing the lives of the people who served as the very foundations of their wealth. This erasure is due to many factors, and historians today are hindered by a lack of information about the enslaved. Thus, the objects uncovered in archaeological excavations can provide critical insight. This collection is important because through its objects we are able to decipher the coded language, traditions, and material culture that enslaved people either created or handled. The decision to focus our interpretation of the Mount Clare agricultural plantation (1750-1817) on the history of African and African American people grants us the opportunity to incorporate and learn from different bodies of cultural knowledge in order to engage in a fuller discussion on the ways in which the enslaved survived the many oppressions of slavery. The traces of this survival are present in these objects, which offer evidence of the enslaved peoples’ resistance, spirituality, agency, and identity.


- Khadija Nia Adell, Curator

   Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance Urban Arts Leadership Fellow