Consuming Individuality: Collective Identity Along the Color Line



In the wake of World War I a wave of racism and cultural xenophobia washed over Indianapolis, Indiana, fueled by an aspiration to create a host of new barriers to Black public rights. In some ways, this moment was the nadir of an undistinguished but otherwise commonplace record of local race tensions: By the early 1920s, elected representatives in city and state government frankly acknowledged their membership in the Ku Klux Klan, a newly elected School Board moved to segregate the schools across the color line, and racist neighborhood residency covenants were introduced into local law (Thornbrough, 2000). Paradoxically, though, African-American Indianapolis quietly thrived in the city’s near-Westside as a network of African-American churches, school, and social institutions expanded, a local business community emerged, and an increasing number of Southern refugees settled in the community. On Camp Street, a modest corner grocery store reflected many African-Americans’ ambitions even as the store owners’ and consumers’ experiences betrayed the contradictions of citizenship along the color line in Indianapolis. The archaeological assemblage from the store reveals the interesting potential insights of an archaeology of individuality, while it simultaneously provides a cautionary tale about how archaeologists might interpret such experiences.


Historical Archaeology Color Line Store Owner Racial Ideology Social Collective 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Indiana University-Purdue UniversityIndianapolisUSA

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