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Dig turning up information on famed abolitionist
Archaeology project finishing its second year at the plantation where Frederick Douglass lived as a child.

 University of Maryland archaeologists are finishing a second season at Wye House Farm in Maryland, guided in part by Frederick Douglass' account of his childhood in slavery there.
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Date published: 8/7/2006



EASTON, Md.--The Great House still stands on the plantation where Frederick Douglass spent his childhood. But the quarters where the famed abolitionist once lived along with other slaves are long gone from the 350-year-old estate.

While the history of the Lloyd family, which has owned the property since the 1600s, is well documented, much less is known about the daily lives of their slaves.

University of Maryland archaeologists hoping to flesh out the story of those who built and worked on the estate are wrapping up their second season at Wye House, guided in part by Douglass' account of his childhood in slavery.

Jennifer Babiarz, a university archaeologist supervising the dig, said slaves such as those who worked at the plantation were the backbone of Maryland's early economy.

"We were very interested in what daily life would have been like for people who were enslaved on this plantation and making sure that people knew the rich history, not just of the Lloyds, but of all the people who lived and worked here," Babiarz said.

"There were so many men, women and children who lived their lives here and it's important their story gets told."

The estate now has about 1,300 acres, much reduced from its 42,000-acre peak in the early 19th century, but the core remains intact. Along with the Great House, with its lengthy tree-lined drive, the property has one of the country's few remaining orangeries, a type of greenhouse used to shelter orange and other citrus trees during the winter. An overseer's house, a slave graveyard, a captain's house, a smokehouse and other structures also dot the property.

A strip described by Douglass as the Long Green is where the archaeologists are concentrating their efforts.

Douglass lived at the plantation for several years in the mid-1820s and wrote about it after his 1838 escape from slavery. In the 1845 autobiography "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass," he described the plantation as "a little nation by itself, having its own language, its own rules, regulations, and customs The overseer was the important dignitary. All the people were the property of one man."

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