We don’t know their names. It’s likely we never will.

We know other things about them, though. We know that he endured heavy labor for much of his young life and that he was buried with care. We know that she was the mother of at least one little boy and suffered a severe pain in her leg that likely worsened as she got older.

Now, more than 100 years after their deaths, we also know what they looked like.

The Catoctin Furnace Historical Society unveiled facial reconstructions of two people who were once enslaved at the Catoctin Furnace in Thurmont Thursday evening at the Delaplaine Arts Center: a woman who experts estimate was about 35 years old when she died and a boy believed to have been about 15.

The event, “Forged in Iron and Bone: Unveiling Faces of the Enslaved,” was a long time coming. It was originally scheduled to take place last March, but the pandemic prompted the historical society to push the unveiling back by more than a year.

Elizabeth Comer, secretary of the Catoctin Furnace Historical Society, is used to being patient, though — it took her several tries to convince Dr. Doug Owsley, lead anthropologist at the Smithsonian, to consider a re-analysis of the African-American remains found near the old furnace site in the late 1970s.

“These things take time, and they’re worth waiting for,” she said, smiling. “Here we are tonight, and it has been a wonderful, wonderful journey. And it’s not over.”

It was an emotional evening. It began with a moment of silence for David Key, the longtime president of Frederick’s African American Resources, Cultural and Heritage Society who died suddenly last week. His presence emanated throughout the night, with many speakers paying homage to his passion for recording the history of African-Americans in the county.

Later, ancestral master drummer Joseph Ngwa beat a djembe drum as he weaved his way through the packed room. He asked everybody to place a hand over their heart — did they feel it beating? The drum, he told them, was an external vibration of their heartbeat. He kept beating as Elayne Bond Hyman read a poem from her collection, “Catoctin SlaveSpeak.” Some in the audience cried as Hyman told the story of an enslaved child coping with the death of her mother. As she spoke from the child’s perspective, Hyman’s face contorted in expressions of grief, pain and sadness.

“This is a very painful, excruciatingly painful history,” she said. “Those of you who have white skin and straight hair or come from Europe, you’re ashamed and embarrassed by this story. And those of us who have dark skin and curly hair, wide noses and big lips, we’re in denial. We don’t want to know because it hurts so bad.”

Comer, an archeologist, recalled her own history with the Catoctin Furnace community. She grew up on a farm near the village where the furnace is located and remembers her childhood in the 1960s as one that was filled with village festivals and frequent interactions with the people who lived there — all of whom were white. For much of her early years, she said, everyone believed the village had an “unchanged European heritage” from the time of the revolution.

But that perception was shattered in 1979, when the construction of U.S. 15 unearthed a cemetery just outside the Catoctin Furnace, which had previously been lost to history, Comer said. Although the site was initially thought by residents to be an “Indian burial ground,” the skeletal remains were soon identified to be from African-Americans who had worked at the furnace.

Today, the Catoctin Furnace Historical Society is continuing to work toward expanding understanding of the role that Africans played in the area’s iron industry with the goal of “providing an avenue for reparative heritage to facilitate social justice, economic opportunity and vindication,” Comer said.

“The effects of enslavement on the African-American population in the United States have been intergenerational, and reversing them will be as well,” she said. “A growing literature makes the moral, historical, legal and economic arguments for Black reparations.”

After discovering the remains, the Maryland State Highway Administration hired a team of professional archaeologists, who ultimately excavated 35 bodies. Over the past four decades, these bodies have been carefully stored in the Smithsonian, where they’ve been studied off-and-on by a series of scientists. But thanks to advances in the field of forensic anthropology and genetics, Owsley said he and his colleagues were able to learn more from the remains than their predecessors were able to.

As Kari Bruwelheide, another Smithsonian anthropologist, later explained, they were able to use DNA analysis to determine the sex of the infant buried above the enslaved woman and confirm that she was his mother.

By examining the bones of the teenage boy’s back — which indicated they’d endured incredible stress — Bruwelheide said researchers were also able to determine that he was frequently forced to perform heavy labor for much of his young life.

As for the enslaved woman, researchers believe she suffered a condition known as Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, which occurs when blood supply to the ball part of the hip joint is temporarily interrupted and the bone begins to die. The symptoms of this disease include pain, limping, stiffness and limited motion of the leg.

“The symptoms increase with activity, and I can’t imagine that she had one day of her life where she was allowed to stay in bed,” Bruwelheide said.

Public historian and historical interpreter Cheyney McKnight also spoke at Thursday night’s event. As a specialist on the headwraps of African women in 18th- and 19th-century North America, McKnight said Comer asked her to tie the wrap around the bust of the enslaved woman — a task, McKnight admitted, she was first confused by. It’s just a headwrap, she remembers thinking.

However, she reluctantly agreed. Although she can never know for sure what the woman wore on her head, McKnight made an educated guess based off of drawings and paintings, as well as her own experience and lived history. She knows it is authentic — because she wrapped it from muscle memory.

“Tying this wrap was the closest I’ve ever gotten to being face-to-face with the ancestors,” she said.

Follow Angela Roberts on Twitter: @24_angier

Follow Angela Roberts on Twitter: @24_angier

(36) comments

shiftless88

You just knew as soon as you read that line that all the conservatives here were going to ignore the big story and focus on one quote. Unfortunate but consistent because they do not want to confront the true history of this country.

artandarchitecture

p.s.

#Facts regarding your Sec 8 who wish to escape crime comment below:

"During the Barack Obama Administration, HUD, under the 2015 ‘Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Initiative,’ created regulations to integrate any neighborhood in America that was over 50% White. President Bill Clinton started a similar program in 1994 called “Moving to Opportunity Initiative,” which moved thousands of mostly Black-American families from government projects to higher-quality section-8 homes in White suburbs. The experiment bombed. A 2011 study sponsored by HUD found that adults involved in the program did not get better jobs or get off welfare, and their children did not do any better in school. In fact, more adults went on food stamps, and crime followed them to their White neighborhoods, ruining the quality of life for existing residents, and driving down the values of the homes in the areas. Dubuque, Iowa, for example, received an influx of voucher holders from projects in Chicago — and it’s had a problem with crime ever since. A recent study linked Dubuque’s crime wave directly to Section 8 housing, and in other cities like Dallas, a similar scenario played out."

"How to Keep Your State Red" by Daily Veracity Staff, June 16, 2021

phydeaux994

a & a, why do you post this Bull Crap that is so easy to check out. It is total BS. You can look up the Legislation online and see what it really says. I’m sure you are a nice Lady and mean well but you are the most gullible, easily led person I’ve never met. You are most likely the President of the unEducated Club that Trump so dearly loves. Please give us links to all the articles and studies you quote. Thanks.

BlueFredneck

I may be in the minority here, but I don't understand why we can't structure reparations around Jim Crow as opposed to slavery. I use Jim Crow as shorthand for legal segregation (residential/educational/otherwise), real estate redlining, and other legal structures that kept Blacks in a legal second class status, and that nearly all Americans today regard as an injustice. These things were practiced from the end of Reconstruction (1876) to roughly the 1960s and 1970s.

1) Jim Crow ended only 40-50 years ago and its aftereffects are still felt today.

2) Tracing descendants of those affected by Jim Crow would be far, far easier than trying to untangle who did what and when from 1800-1900. Birth certificates for Blacks, for example, weren't even universally required until the 1930s.

3) Many of those affected are still alive today.

4) Descendants of those who came in via Ellis Island and Angel Island can't claim they didn't benefit from Jim Crow (or would at least have a harder time claiming that.)

5) It was practiced nationwide. Northerners can't claim "oh but we fought the Civil War and my ancestors fought for the North."

6) It was unique to America - whereas slavery was a near-universal practice, with varying degrees of cruelty and "chatteldom."

7) We have the repayments for the Japanese internment camp victims and their descendants as precedent for this.

We have injustices from 1930-1970 that can be corrected at least partially, and IMO are probably more responsible for what's going on today.

We have injustices from today that can be corrected entirely.

WalkTheTown

If he was only 15, and if he was a slave in Maryland, he would have been born no later than 1863, which means he died over 142 years ago. She would have died at least 122 years ago. That is for being born just before emancipation, so if they remember slavery they died even longer ago. Stating they died "over 100 years ago" is correct but oddly inaccurate. You could say they died "over 50 years ago" and still be correct but even more inaccurate. If the only accuracy you have is "over 100 years ago" then the facial reconstructions may not be of slaves but of those suffering through a 100-year era of Jim Crow laws and other hateful things. My only assertion is that your reported timing of when these people lived and died is oddly inaccurate.

Also, the statement that she made that if you are white and European, you should be ashamed of this story, is rather, what's the correct phrase to use? Tone deaf? I was born after the Civil Rights Act has been passed. My ancestors alive during the Civil War died long before I was born. My ancestors didn't own slaves (I've done the research) and even if they had own slaves, that was them, not me. We can only be ashamed of things we have done or haven't done in our lifetimes.

So, what do *we* do at the *current* time to provide better recognition of PsOC, to rid ourselves of prejudices and work to make our world a fair and better place for everyone? What do we do to educated ourselves now? What do we do to exposure ourselves to other cultures and the people who identify as part of those cultures? What do we do to understand how other people may not feel equal in our society?

We have no ability to change the past. Let's judge ourselves by what we are doing now. There's plenty to criticize.

Joel Anderson

At the event it was clearly stated that they died in the early 1800s. The times of their deaths clearly synchronizes with the written record of slave ownership at the furnace. The term more than 100 years was not used at the event. That was the reporters interpretation.

Awteam2021

“Walk The Town”, in case you aren’t familiar with the Catoctin Furnace, off Rte 15, was established in 1776 to forge pig iron. The business mainly manufacturer carriage wheels and for foundry rolling mill purposes. The labor force was made up over 80 slaves - high skilled and experienced, these enslaved craftsmen worked as blacksmiths, colliers, founders, and forge men. Toward the end of the Revolutionary War, the furnace also produced ammunition for the Continental Army, including shells fired during the siege of Yorktown.

C.D.Reid

It also produced some of the steel plates used on the USS Monitor during the Civil War.

Joel Anderson

This was a wonderful event,only possible because thousands of hours of work over years. Many of those hours by volunteers with no compensation except for the satisfaction of knowing more about our past. Having these facial reconstruction's in a museum in Frederick is a real privilege.

MRS M

I agree, Joel, as are the many photographs of enslaved men and women of that time in American history. Then, fast forward about 180 years, and study well the photograph of Officer Derek Chauvin, hands casually held in pockets, with a knee and his full body weight held upon the neck of George Floyd for 9 minutes as Floyd died. Many white Americans may look upon these reconstructions or old photographs, and be unmoved. Others have a deeper understanding of the horrors of enslavement and racial hatred, whether through their own personal experience, or through exposure to the ever-growing body of work on slavery, the reconstruction, and the civil rights movement in America. These frankly beautiful and harrowing reconstructions may bring some to a further understanding of the scope of racism and racial hatred in our country. Others, out of ignorance, denial, or lack of empathy for the plight of those enslaved, will go forward believing that racial injustice is only a thing of the past, "corrected" by the Emancipation Proclamation, unworthy of their understanding, compassion or frank embarassment for our nation. Yes, these ffacial reconstructions are a privilege, for those who wish to see.

fnpreader123

Not in pockets, he was wearing gloves. I wish people didn't parrot talking points they picked-up on social media, it makes the rest of their statements suspect.

MrSniper

How does that minor little detail change anything?

C.D.Reid

“Those of you who have white skin and straight hair or come from Europe, you’re ashamed and embarrassed by this story."

Why should I be ashamed and embarrassed by this story? No one in my family tree ever owned a slave. And no one in my family tree was ever involved in the slave trade. It's comments like that that only serve to further the racial divide in this country, not heal it. If other White people want to feel ashamed and embarrassed, that's their option. I don't feel either in the least.

Fredginrickey

You have benefited from slave labor every day. Enslaved people built many of the roads, and buildings you frequent. Modern slavery has manufactured the clothes you wear. The treatment of African Americans and Indigenous people is a shame, an American sin. BTW, how do you know no one in your family was involved or benefitted from slavery?

C.D.Reid

My response to your first three sentences is "So what?" To your last, it's called "research."

sevenstones1000

The “so what” is that when a person or institution (in this case the US government) does something unjust and wrong, they acknowledge it and make amends.

Fredginrickey

So what? Shows you want all the bennies, and refuse the source. I’m sure the Reid history is chockablock with the creme de la creme of society. It’s called BS.

C.D.Reid

So what do you want me to do, Fredginrickey, take all the money in my savings, my investments, and give it away to black people who today were never slaves? However this country was built, whether by the labor of White people, black people, Asians or whomever, it was built. It's done. Slavery is over, neither I nor my family was ever involved in it, and life goes on. Deal with it.

Dwasserba

I think the possibilities of “benefiting from slavery” are in many cases so abstract/theoretical as to not seem obvious, which is an obstacle to grasping the concept. My adoptive family was in no way I know involved with slavery (I researched.) I do not know my birthfamily, so draw a blank there. However: it was quite common in earlier times to have house servants, even the middle class often had helpers, and frequently they were persons of color whose situation in life cast them as the employee, not the employer, and so, one might ask, “historically, how would that come about?” First you have to ask the question. That didn’t happen. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement. But was it equally beneficial.

sevenstones1000

I agree we could do without the hysterical hyperbole when we consider slavery and American history. There isn’t time or energy to waste on such sidetracks. There is too much to do. Knowledge is the foundation and I appreciate all the knowledge that is being uncovered and disseminated.

Let’s look, clear eyed and honestly at what happened, let’s celebrate the courage and strength of those who survived enslavement and let’s get busy figuring out how best to move forward, together, as Americans. Shame and embarrassment at this point are useless.

phydeaux994

I think that White people today should feel exactly like the German people have since the Holocaust, empathetic toward the people their ancestors violated. Doesn’t matter whether your ancestors were slave owners or not, the oppression and discrimination against the Black Race continues as we speak and the best reparations would be to end the oppression and racism and start their assimilation into the America that White people enjoy. Same thing for Native Americans and minorities discriminated against.

Blueline

How do they know they were slaves?

Awteam2021

Who’s “they”? The archaeologists?

Awteam2021

Anthropologist?

Dwasserba

National Park Service presentation on this https://www.nps.gov/media/video/view.htm?id=336C766E-E163-46F7-9AC3-AF3146C8E95C

artandarchitecture

“Those of you who have white skin and straight hair or come from Europe, you’re ashamed and embarrassed by this story. "

As someone who loves to research history, I'd be thoroughly exhausted if I became [personally] emotionally involved with each story I read. And there are many more happy stories than sad, by the way. Before the Civil War was fought and won, a number of groups, including Quakers, Methodists, and the Maryland State Colonization Society, which created a short-lived Republic of Maryland in Africa, next to Liberia, continually, and relentlessly opposed all slavery.

With regard to the economics of reparations within the state of Maryland, it is an exceeding complicated matter. Among other things, how should the situation of free Maryland blacks, who sold and purchased fellow blacks be handled?

For example, Freed slave Nathaniel Butler who owned land outside of Aberdeen, Maryland generated most of his wealth by hoodwinking run-away slaves into believing his home, a mere 20 miles from the Mason-Dixon line, was a slave sanctuary. He would hide slaves long enough to find out who owned them and more importantly, what was the reward for their return. If the price was to his liking Butler returned them. If he considered the reward too low, he would buy them and resell them for a profit.

"Although the site was initially thought by residents to be an “Indian burial ground,” the skeletal remains were soon identified..."

Native Americans, like every other group in the world, also owned slaves.

Thank God for those who gave up their lives to end slavery in America. Currently, as Americans, we all have a great deal of economic power to stop purchasing goods that are made overseas using forced labor. Two weeks ago, Nestle, scored another victory at the SCOTUS for giant, greedy, corporations using child labor in Africa. During the case, Nestle argued that their alleged African child enslavement practices were not occurring on U.S. soil/or within the U.S.

sevenstones1000

Whataboutism is the lowest form of analysis. I don’t particularly care about isolated anomalies you can dredge up. The entire economy of the Southern US was based on enslaved labor. That is something to consider.

Awteam2021

A&A, nothing you have written here has anything to do with the Catoctin furnace slave laborers. When you’re making comparisons in history, you need to use some critical. If this came cross my desk, I would have given your gibberish an ‘F’.

public-redux

Thank God we have a conservative SCOTUS.

phydeaux994

I laugh at the way you always bring up other people who did wrong to excuse what our White ancestors did wrong. “Native Americans, like every other group in the world, also owned slaves.”.....BTW, Native Americans were enslaved before Blacks but proved difficult to control.

artandarchitecture

Phy, you are so naive.

I just happened to come across a very good article for people who haven't critically followed current events, mass immigration, history, socialism/communism, subversion of our churches universities, politics & media, defensive warfare, *or* deliberate destruction of American culture.

It answers every single question you have ever asked me. Westerners are *deliberately* brainwashed to think that diversity/multiculturalism is a strength. It's NOT, and it always devolves into balkanization (i.e. currently non-liberals are fleeing cities & moving to red/conservative areas, & moving out of democratic supermajorities like Maryland.) If you stay in this state, you will live a grand life for just a couple more years. You can gloat in self-satisfaction over what you believe is your 'moral superiority' because you are so "tolerant" while you cannot resist/decline (stop voting for) generous taxpayer-funded incentives which were deliberately designed to keep as many people as possible dependent on the government. [Read up on how to overwhelm the system using the Cloward Piven strategy.]

Throughout history, serious threats of potential violence over ideologies, and then over race, or religion, have always sent people packing. In the last ~70 years, the data has shown that people move away from the homes they love, and the neighborhoods they've cherish their entire lives, once one out of every six people they know has become a victim of violent crime. I'm here to tell you, many whites have reached this point:

Blackness Fatigue: Enough Is Too Much - By Fred Reed, (former Marine and semi-retired journalist) AmRen, 6/24/21

https://www.amren.com/commentary/2021/06/blackness-fatigue-enough-is-too-much/

sevenstones1000

Art - I suggest you go find some other country to live in, because the United States has been, since it’s inception, a country of diversity where all cultures are welcome. Unlike Europe, where your family can come from Algeria and live in France for four generations and you will still not be considered French, anyone can come to the US and actually become an American.

If you don’t like that, please just go.

olefool

Your references sounds a lot like an iteration of "The Third Reich" to me. Besides, your choice of sources is likewise questionable, Fred Reed???

artandarchitecture

SevenStones

Here's the facts for you:

The Naturalization Act of 1790, setting out who may become a citizen of the new American nation, states *explicitly*:

“That any alien, being a free White person, who shall have resided within the limits and under the jurisdiction of the United States, for the term of two years, may be admitted to become a citizen thereof…”

We're fine & completely self-sufficient on our own. We're heading out to very rural areas to be left alone. The suburbs aren't nearly far enough away from metropolis. The cities will collapse, and then the suburbs will be invaded for resources. If you don't happen to own a gun, you are just storing your pantry full of food for some thug who does.

Hopefully we won't have govt officials coming to 'diversify' us w/ enforced high-rise Sec 8 apts if we choose to go to land that is Very naturally challenging: super rural, mountainous, with few resources built by the govt.

I'll say this, if there are any nonwhite survivalist-types who wish to trail us, & live among steep cliffs, etc., lol special dispensation will be strongly considered.

"White folks were running from us black folks." - Michelle Obama

Andrew Young, black Atlanta mayor: “No matter where whites go, we will follow. No matter how far away they move, We Will Follow. Whites can't escape us!”

(Young said this in a graduation speech during a blacks-only graduation ceremony years back.)

shiftless88

Interesting that Artie makes a blanket statement about people moving away, neglecting the privilege that allows that. You think many black people or hispanic people wouldn't like to move from violent neighborhoods?

artandarchitecture

Shiftless, omg,my sides are hurting from laughter...

Look at her! Art has nothing but the shirt on her back, no physical home, & is happy to live off bark, until she becomes the 'final boss' the communists have left to confront (after the complete collapse of every city + both coasts.)

D*mn, that white-girl privilege!!! [lol]

We're all so gosh-darn 'privileged' until we're 100% eradicated from the planet.

Now I'm a jokey bigot, but I *know* you woke liberals are humorless/serious.

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