MR. ROB SACHS
Welcome back to "Metro Connection," I'm Rob Sachs.
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
And I'm Rebecca Sheir.
And today, we're exploring underground D.C.
Before the break, we heard about all kinds of secret stuff, classified stuff. You know, spies, military instillations. Now, we're going to get a little more physical in our underground exploration and actually head, well, underground.
Archeologists in Frederick, Md., are unearthing the largest slave village in the national capital region. And as WAMU's Kavitha Cardoza tells us, they're piecing together a painful story, one artifact at a time.
MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA
Joy Beasley, an archeologist with the National Park Service, walks across the land known as Best Farm. But approximately 200 years ago, it was a 750 acre plantation called L'Hermitage owned by French farmers from Haiti, the VincendiA`res. She says her team discovered six slave homes on the property.
MS. JOY BEASLEY
Right here. Yeah, see where the ground is kind of disturbed? That's where one of the foundations was, is right there.
The VincendiA`res owned 90 slaves.
Roughly, 10 times the number you would expect them to have for the size of plantation they were operating. That made them the second largest slave holders in Frederick County and among the largest in the state of Maryland at that time.
The VincendiA`res family was also one of the most brutal. Beasley says, it's likely they imported the harsh slave system practiced in Haiti to Maryland.
There's also an eyewitness account that refers to stocks and whipping posts and wooden horses, torture devices, in other words, being visible on the farm.
The treatment actually prompted Maryland officials to take the family to court a few times.
Charges that ranged from, what are termed, cruel or unmerciful beatings to -- there was one instance in which they were accused of not providing appropriate food and clothing for their enslaved population.
At least twice, Beasley says, the VincendiA`res were found guilty. Very little is known about these enslaved men and women. And Stephen Potter with the National Park Service says that's why every shell and coin they find on the site is so important. It helps personalize them.
MR. STEPHEN POTTER
These individuals had lives beyond what their masters expected them to do. And so here we get to see glimpses of their private lives as a community and as families.
Back in their offices, Kate Birmingham is painstakingly cataloging all the items they've found into plastic bags. So when I look at the items, they look like stones to me.
MS. KATE BIRMINGHAM
A lot of people have trouble figuring out what the artifacts are.
And archeologists try to interpret what certain items might mean. So, for example, meat bones cracked open could mean slaves ate the marrow and glazed ceramic fragments could explain how they cooked their food. Birmingham says archeologists have found many more buttons then they would normally expect.
We know that, based on where the chimneys were placed on the houses, it would've been very cold and a working guess is they were taking the buttons off because the primary use of the clothing would be reused as quilts.
But digging up the past...
MS. MARY HARRIS
That's Mary Harris who lectures about African-American history in Frederick County. She's been following the excavation with interest. Harris says these slaves wanted what everyone wants, a home, family. She says they were survivors.
It's what they overcame. It's a thing of strength and of perseverance. And we can use those things in our lives today.
A forgotten chapter of history slowly being uncovered. I'm Kavitha Cardoza.
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