Association of Black Anthropologists
Oral Presentation Session
This paper explores the impact of the lost narratives of Black laborers who worked sugarcane plantations as slaves, as sharecroppers, and eventually as prison laborers in what would one day be incorporated as Sugar Land, Texas. The recently uncovered remains of these Black laborers serve as a muted backdrop to the city’s historical identity of heroic colonial Whiteness. Sugar Land is perceived to be a “White” city devoid of Blackness so that even though this southwestern suburb owes much of its vitality to a legacy of Black labor and pain, it is not residentially welcoming to this historical narrative or its diasporic descendants. The land currently housing the Black bodies of this labor history belongs to the local school district, thus connecting the racial ideology of local educational administrators to the White redemptive curricular discourses of neoliberal multicultural rac(ism) that has been well documented to be a dominant indoctrinating discourse amongst modern White youth in Texas. This discourse, seemingly a new issue in secondary educational curricular interrogations of race, has a decades long tradition in the anthropological canon and its critics. Through Hortense Spillers’ notion of a Black Studies prehistory I aim to illuminate the relationship between anthropology’s antiBlack traditions and the displacing of Black stories by White pseudo-historic notions of place and self. Perhaps through a reinsertion of Black humanity into the “American Grammar” of race and cultural heritage representation we can not only critically repopulate the canon, but also nice “White” Suburbs like Sugar Land, Texas.