Archaeologists work at Georgetown site to locate the remains of Yarrow Mamout, whose life offers an important counter narrative to our understanding of the history of slavery. By Elton Kulak
The Center for Contemporary Arab Studies staff and interns recently took a trip to a newly discovered historic site in Georgetown. At 3324 Dent Place, N.W., archaeologists believe they have discovered the burial site of freed slave Yarrow Mamout, on the property he purchased after freedom. The CCAS staff were able to observe the excavation of Yarrow’s believed burial site, and speak directly with University of Florida doctoral student Mia Carey, who is overseeing the project. One of the goals for the archaeologists and researchers on the site is to help change the narrative of slavery in the early United States away from the nearly monolithic image of chattel slavery to a more nuanced view of slavery.
Originally from Guinea, West Africa, Yarrow was brought to the United States and sold to the Beall family in 1752. A brickmaker and basket weaver, Yarrow soon earned a reputation as an honest and industrious man and was manumitted in 1796. As a freed slave, Yarrow serves as an exemplary counter narrative as he was educated, industrious, respected and entrepreneurial. English was at least his third language, as records show he was a Muslim Fulani who could read and write in Arabic, and Yarrow was so well respected in the community that he was one of the few African Americans at the time whose obituary appeared in the local newspaper.
While the excavation is still in progress, the site team is hopeful they will be able to find the remains of Yarrow. Artifacts from roughly the same time have been found in the suspected burial site, including a glass medicine bottle believed to be dated to the early 19th century.
Elton Kulak completed an internship at CCAS in July, 2015 as part of the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations’ Summer Internship Program.