Artifacts

Artifact Picture   hat is "material culture"? Why do we study objects from the past, or contemporary artifacts? What do artifacts tell us about history? What do they say about technology and how it is integrated into society? What do objects say about the way society is organized? Can objects tell us how people interact with each other?

And what is African American material culture? What is African American about it? Is it things used by African Americans? Things created by African Americans? Things associated with African Americans?

If we say that "material culture" is the world around us that has been shaped by human hands; or that it is all things made and shaped by human beings--then we begin to see the diversity of things that comprise African American material culture. And it is remarkable: decorative arts that produced quilts, carved walking sticks, pottery, hats and other garments; the craft traditions of ironworking, boatbuilding, and architecture. We can also see the creativity and imagination involved in the process: the skill of making musical instruments, fine furniture, and exquisite clothing; the design of domestic interiors, yards and gardens, and urban spaces.

Here, we present a range of artifacts, documents, photographs, and other examples from the world of African American material culture. Look at them, enjoy them, and listen to the stories that they tell.