Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Theresa Singleton

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Classical Archaeology and Art History | Classics


This dissertation examines life at 87 Church Street in downtown Charleston, South Carolina prior to the construction of the standing Heyward-Washington House compound in 1772. The primary data for this study consisted of “legacy” collections, or previously excavated collections that for whatever reason the primary investigator is no longer present. Thus, the primary field site for this project was a museum storeroom and the archive. By revisiting these collections, significant narrative gaps emerged in terms of Black and Indigenous presence on site. As much as the research focus dwelled in the eighteenth century, the “fieldwork” drifted into examining the much more recent past in the storerooms, offices, and galleries of The Charleston Museum to grapple with how past narrative silences impacted modern curation and research decisions. In much the same way archival silences can perpetuate past systems of violence, so can research silences in the archaeological repository. This is critical to consider as researchers grapple with the ongoing legacies urban slavery in cities such as Charleston.

Prior to the 1772 construction date, the author identified three occupational phases representing at least two generations of households. The focus here is on the phases defined by the occupation of a white gunsmithing family known as the Milners and the at least eleven men, women, and children they enslaved. Urban slavery is very difficult to see in the archaeological record at urban townhome sites. Unlike on plantation sites, where discrete deposits related to slave dwellings can be isolated during excavation, urban occupants are often disposing of their refuse in the same areas and dwelling in the same spaces. To tackle this question of “seeing” enslavement, this dissertation will consider how these shared material spaces are deeply “entangled” as our primary vehicle for understanding how the same space and objects could be related to differently by different residents. Particularly, it will focus on reconfiguring our perception of these sites as elite, white, and domestic spaces in favor of understanding them as loci of Black labor.


Open Access

Available for download on Sunday, September 15, 2024