Not far from the U.S. presidential retreat Camp David, inside Maryland’s Catoctin Mountain Park, are remnants of an iron forge called Catoctin Furnace, also home to a cemetery for enslaved people.
Sixteen of the bodies excavated were males, and 11 were females, ranging in age from infants to elders. Research found the deceased to be descendants of African populations in West and Central Africa with genetic connections to modern populations in Senegal, Gambia, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“This knowledge was severed by slavery—a truth that has implications for African Americans far beyond the community of Catoctin Furnace,” said Kari Bruwelheide, anthropologist of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.
“This study demonstrates the power of genomics to reconstruct some of what has been destroyed. For African American and United States history, revealing these stories and family legacies is important to understanding and acknowledging who we are, where we came from, and how we are connected to each other today.”
The significance of the furnace’s location is not lost on researchers as Cunningham Falls State Park is only a few miles from Camp David, where the leaders of the free world often spend downtime, and which still boasts many of the industrial buildings and houses originally constructed by enslaved people.
“The experiences of African Americans within the early industrial complex of the United States are not completely understood, and their labors in this system have not been thoroughly explored or acknowledged,” Smithsonian anthropologist Kathryn Barca.
“We hope this paper gives voice to these 27 individuals while it acknowledges their origins and centers their histories within the broader context of the United States,” Barca added.
“In this way, it can help to begin to restore their identity stripped by enslavement.”
Source: Black Enterprise