Howard University Student Discovers Dietary History of New York’s Enslaved Africans

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Carter Clinton (courtesy of Howard University).

A Ph.D. student from Howard University recently discovered new information about the diets of enslaved Africans.

Carter Clinton’s doctoral research focuses on the ground soil at the African Burial Ground in New York, where enslaved Africans were buried, according to a news release from the university. The scholar is performing a bacterial DNA, soil chemistry, and geospatial analysis of the burial site, the nation’s largest for free and enslaved Africans during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Traces of metals and other elements were found in the soil, which reflects the diets of the buried individuals. Clinton found an elevated level of strontium, which indicates a heavily vegetated diet, but said that was likely not by choice. He also noted that there are high levels of arsenic, zinc, and copper in the soil, noting that a nearby factory may have used the cemetery as…

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4 comments

  • marianacarolinareyes

    An amazing challenge to a history of Science that works under a facade of political neutrality. These histories deserve to be known and I look forward to more incredible researchers breaking the boundaries by bringing in those histories in interdisciplinary ways. This work can be done with all passions and gifts! Well done!

  • sarahmbullock

    Fascinating! Reminds me of the great work being done by the Gullah Society in Charleston – if you’re interested in this, check them out!

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