CONVERSATIONS ABOUT THE PAST
Kenneth L. Brown, Ph.D.
Demography and Continuity at the Jordan Plantation
This passage is excerpted from "Material Culture and Community Structure: The Slave and Tenant Community at Levi Jordan's Plantation, 1848-1892." In Working Toward Freedom: Slave Society and Domestic Economy in the American South, edited by Jr. Larry E. Hudson, (pp. 95-118). University of Rochester Press, Rochester, NY. (2).
Ken Brown, in front of plantation house
critical aspect of this research into the evolution of
the African-American community has been to demonstrate
the high level of continuity between the pre- and post-
emancipation population on the plantation. Archaeological
research demonstrates that the same residential buildings
were being employed during both of these time periods.
Any investigation of cultural evolution, however, depends
on the ability to demonstrate a high level of residential
continuity (from slavery to tenancy) and community
involvement among the settler generation and their
descendants. Otherwise, the cultural change noted may
have been the result of people moving into the community,
rather than the adaptive change of individuals within the
"At least twelve families and/or heads of households can be shown to have been tenants/sharecroppers, who were working for wages, and/or practicing some other economic activity, on the plantation through the 1870s and 1880s. Additionally, five male children listed [on the census] in 1870 are identified as heads of households on the plantation in 1880. Further, two females listed as wives in 1870 are identified as heads of households in 1880, still continuing to live on the plantation. Finally, it is possible that two females listed as children in the 1870 census each married two of the male children noted above, and were still living on the plantation in 1880. Thus, of the twenty-nine families that can be identified as living on the plantation in 1870, a minimum of fourteen of them continued to have members living on the plantation in 1880. This group actually comprises nineteen of the twenty-three families living on the plantation in 1880 ..
"Further, the demographic structure of the African-American population residing on the plantation, based upon the 1850-80 Federal Census records help to demonstrate this continuity in population as well. Continuity can be observed in terms of the structure of the adult male population. Over time, the ratio of the cohort of adult males within the age categories from 20 to 50 years old remains approximately the same. (a graph illustrating this will be added to this site in the future) This would suggest that this group of males is aging, rather than being replaced by a variety of individuals from outside of the original population. A number of the "replacements" are actually sons and grandsons of the original slave residents."
[This continuity has remained a feature of social and political relationships in present day Brazoria County. See also "Past as Present in Brazoria County", by Carol McDavid, for a brief discussion this issue.]
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‹ Carol McDavid 1998