The Plurality of Parting Ways: Landscapes of Dependence and Independence and the Making of a Free African American Community in Massachusetts


Parting Ways was a plural space shaped by multiple social and historical forces that combined to reinforce its residents’ dependence on the dominant society, while simultaneously affording the creation a “homeplace” for its residents, within which to construct their lives as free people. Such plurality highlights tension between African American freedom and processes of racialization in 19th-century Massachusetts: the Parting Ways residents labored as free men and women, but found their efforts controlled by the White community, and they created an autonomous homeplace on land that continued to be owned and controlled by town officials. This article explores how the physical landscape and property history of Parting Ways and social relationships between the residents and Plymouth elite contributed to the perpetuation of relationships of dependency; it also uses archaeological evidence to examine how the formerly enslaved residents at Parting Ways constructed autonomous households that supported individual, family, and community independence.


Parting Ways era un espacio plural al que dieron forma múltiples fuerzas sociales e históricas que se combinaron para reforzar la dependencia de sus residentes en la sociedad dominante, proporcionando al mismo tiempo de manera simultánea la creación de un "hogar" para sus residentes, dentro del cual construir sus vidas como personas libres. Dicha pluralidad destaca la tensión entre la libertad de los afroamericanos y los procesos de racionalización en el Massachusetts del siglo XIX: los residentes de Parting Ways trabajaban como hombres y mujeres libres, pero encontraban que sus esfuerzos eran controlados por la comunidad blanca, y crearon un hogar autónomo en la tierra que continuó estando en poder y controlado por las autoridades de la ciudad. El presente artículo explora cómo el paisaje físico y la historia de la propiedad de Parting Ways y las relaciones sociales entre los residentes y la élite de Plymouth contribuyeron a la perpetuación de relaciones de dependencia; también utiliza pruebas arqueológicas para examinar cómo los residentes anteriormente esclavizados de Parting Ways construyeron hogares autónomos que apoyaban la independencia individual, familiar y comunitaria.


Parting Ways était un espace pluriel formé par des forces sociales et historiques multiples qui se conjuguaient pour renforcer la dépendance de ses résidents à l’égard de la société dominante, tout en permettant simultanément la création d’un « lieu de résidence » pour ses résidents afin de construire leur vie en tant que personnes libres. Cette pluralité met en évidence la tension entre la liberté des Afro-américains et les processus de racialisation dans le Massachusetts du 19e siècle : les résidents de Parting Ways travaillaient comme des hommes et des femmes libres, mais constatèrent que leurs actions étaient contrôlées par la communauté blanche et ils créèrent un lieu de résidence autonome sur des terres qui restaient détenues et contrôlées par les fonctionnaires de la ville. Cet article explore comment le paysage physique et l’histoire de la propriété de Parting Ways et les rapports sociaux entre les résidents et l’élite de Plymouth ont contribué à perpétuer les relations de dépendance. Il utilise également les preuves archéologiques pour examiner comment les habitants autrefois asservis à Parting Ways ont construit des lieux de résidence autonomes qui étaient favorables à l’indépendance de l’individu, de la famille et de la communauté.

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    For example, Quamony Quash served in the war from 1780 to 1783, at the request of Col. Cotton, in exchange for his freedom, which was awarded at the end of the war. By 1781, Quash’s father and mother, along with members of the Turner family, were living at Parting Ways.

  2. 2.

    These interpretations were based on the erroneous assumption that the African American families were the first inhabitants at Parting Ways. I argue elsewhere (Hutchins 2013a) that many of the mid-18th-century ceramics were actually associated with the known mid-18th-century occupation by the Anglo-American Fuller family.


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Correspondence to Karen A. Hutchins-Keim.

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Hutchins-Keim, K.A. The Plurality of Parting Ways: Landscapes of Dependence and Independence and the Making of a Free African American Community in Massachusetts. Hist Arch 52, 85–99 (2018).

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  • African American archaeology
  • New England
  • Massachusetts
  • homeplace
  • Parting Ways