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Sat, Jan 29


Virtual Lecture

Dunkerhook: An African American Community

Join us for three presentations by students involved in the recent work on the historic African American Dunkerhook community in Paramus, NJ.

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Dunkerhook: An African American Community
Dunkerhook: An African American Community

Time & Location

Jan 29, 2022, 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM

Virtual Lecture

About the Event

Will Williams, Sasha Thompson, and Cristina Bueso are three students who have participated in the excavations at Dunkerhook in Paramus, New Jersey. Join us for an afternoon where each student will share their research.

This event will be hosted VIRTUALLY via WebEx. Registration is through Eventbrite. Follow the link below or click on the RSVP button to register. Those who register will receive a link upon registration. The session will also be live-streamed on the Dey Mansion Facebook page at

Link: Dunkerhook: An African American Community

1. Will Williams: Shared Bodies: Social Patterns in Rural East Jersey and The Formation of an African American Community.

Using early 19th-century membership records from the Church of Paramus, this study proposes that systems of indirect enslavement used by Dutch descended families in Bergen County, New Jersey, fulfilled their domestic, farm, and possibly construction labor requirements. The investigation includes families from multiple townships who attended the same church; data shows several enslaved African Americans were also attendees of the white-run church. Analysis of the slave’s connection to multiple enslavers and an investigation of the white enslavers’ social and business networks reveals a complex system of shared, rented, or group ownership of enslaved African Americans. This hypothesis and data are framed against more conventional historical documentary sources such as tax records, wills, and case and statute texts. The voices of prominent social justice scholars contextualize this study’s findings within the space of the Northeastern United States and temporally in the period leading up to and into the slow process of gradual emancipation in New Jersey. The unifying motivation of the investigation is to develop a deeper understanding of the formation of the later free African American community at Dunkerhook Road.

2. Sasha Thompson: Dunkerhook: Transition, Acculturation and Resilience.

In the mid-19th century, formerly enslaved Africans founded an emergent locality at Dunkerhook, establishing a community of their own. The community flourished and African American occupancy in the area continued to expand into the early 20th century. Recent archaeological excavation carried out at Dunkerhook has yielded a remarkable volume of household artifacts that could offer more insight into the everyday lives of free people of color. This paper will address artifacts recovered from the Island Lot site and examine their potential link to socio-economic status, acculturation, and ethnic identity. Excavation unit 8 and 9 will serve as the concentration, with an emphasis tea ware and ceramic assemblages.

3. Cristina Bueso: Dunkerhook: An African American Enclave in Paramus, New Jersey

Founded by formerly enslaved Africans, the Dunkerhook community grew to be a thriving enclave of free people of color from the mid-19th century to the early 20th century. This paper will recount the historical significance of Dunkerhook as well as findings from a recent archaeological survey of associated sites. Survey and excavation have identified multiple contexts and sites that trace the development of the community through time. Artifacts associated with health and healing and possibly midwifery are a special focus.

This event is FREE and sponsored by the Passaic County Board of County Commissioners & Friends of Dey Mansion, Inc.

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