In this series, we look at the newest findings coming out of our area’s top research universities. We’ve got some great minds in Baltimore — let’s learn what they’re learning!
Not all archaeologists get their work done in Egyptian tombs; some of them look at the secrets of the more recent past. Take the research being conducted by University of Maryland archaeology professor Mark Leone, who’s leading students in an excavation of a twentieth-century home. But it’s not just any home — the Annapolis house belonged to an African-American woman who was married to a Filipino man, and Leone is using his findings to explore early twentieth-century immigration conflicts between blacks and Filipinos.
But the story begins much earlier than that, with James Holliday, a freed slave who was one of the first African Americans employed by the U.S. Naval Academy. He bought a house on East Street in Annapolis, and his granddaughter lived in the same home decades later when she married a Filipino cook in 1919. But racial tensions were running high in the early decades of the twentieth century, and blacks and Filipinos were two disadvantaged groups that were often pitted against one another. The Naval Academy’s Commandant at the time claimed to prefer working with Filipinos because they were “clean, honest, military, studious, amenable to discipline,” and “cost less to feed.”
Unsurprisingly, tensions resulted. “The Academy hired Filipinos to work in the kitchen as messmen, officer stewards or laborers,” says Leone’s graduate student, Kathrina Aben. “In practice, this meant replacing African Americans in their jobs.” But intermarriage was one way that the two groups adapted to one another. “We’re discovering family stories carved in irony,” Leone says. “[This couple was] brought together by its racial stereotyping, and yet overcoming cultural and racial barriers quite successfully in their own lives.”