11/05 - 11/07/21
All Day

The GSD’s Fall 2021 Public Programs were all virtual and required registration.

The event was live streamed to the Harvard GSD YouTube page. Only viewers who attended the lecture via Zoom were able to submit questions for the Q+A.

Live captioning was provided during this event.

Event Description

This forum brings together scholars whose research investigates the relationship between the African diaspora, Afro-descendants, and the built environment of North America and the Caribbean from a variety of lenses that are specific to the scholars’ fields of inquiry. The goal is to begin to expand the field of landscape history by taking into consideration questions that are not always deemed central to the practice of design, if by design is understood an activity that has featured—in the historical narratives—the presence of an author-designer, a client, and a variety of tools the former has used to communicate ideas about form, materials and use, to the latter.

By its very cross-disciplinary nature and topical organization, this forum questions a traditional mode of history writing that is based both on the description of linear developments and on the exclusive use of archival and written sources. Instead it argues for a relational historiography that considers what methods and what traces—written, spoken, or material, and whether found on the land’s surface or below—may allow us to tell the story of the black North American and Caribbean landscape of enslaved, maroons and freemen. Without arguing for the obliteration of what is already known about the landscape of plantations and the settlements of early America, essays presented at this symposium will ultimately produce a landscape history that, paraphrasing Èdouard Glissant, is latent, open, multicultural in intention, and directly in contact with everything possible.


Friday, November 5, 2021

6 PM
Conference introduction by Anita Berrizbeitia  

6:10 – 7:30 PM
Keynote Address by Michael Twitty: “Beyond ‘Slave Food’: Re-Organizing the Perceptions and Potential of African American Foodways”

Saturday, November 6 

10 – 10:20 AM

10:20 – 11:50 AM
Panel Discussion 1, moderated by Jarvis McInnis

Hoeing, Harvesting, Healing & Hexing: The Earth and its Cultivation as Tools of Resistance to Enslavement
Anne Bouie

Forgotten Witnesses: Exploring Archaeological Sites of Labor at a Presidential Plantation
Matthew Reeves and James French

11:50 AM – 1 PM
Lunch Break

1:30 – 3:00 PM
Panel Discussion 2, moderated by Matthew Mulcahy

Nowhere and Everywhere: The Archaeological Footprint of Afro-Descendants on the Urban Landscape of 16th-Century Spanish Hispaniola
Pauline Martha Kulstad-González

The Plantation Cityscape: Slave Labor as a Circulatory System in the Urbanization of Colonial New Orleans
Nicholas Paskert

3:00 – 3:30 PM

3:30 – 5:00 PM
Panel Discussion 3, moderated by Jennifer Anderson

“The Fences Have Flown”: Unsettling Enclosure in Narratives of Black Spatial Practice
Elleza Kelley

Landscape, Memory, and the History of Slavery in Mississippi
Max Grivno

Sunday, November 7, 2021

10:00 – 11:30 AM
Panel Discussion 4, moderated by Andrea Mosterman

Title TBD
Everett Fly

Working Freedom: Black Farmers and Industrious Landscapes in Maryland, 1866-1880
Melissa Blair

11:30 AM – 1 PM
Lunch Break 

1:00 – 2:30 PM
Panel Discussion 5, moderated by Joyce Chaplin

Black Tropical Landscape Ecologies in Colonial America and the Caribbean
Andrew Sluyter

“The Cave of Iron, Steel and Resistance”: An examination of Trents Cave and the role of West African metallurgical knowledge and spiritual power expressed beyond plantation supervision in 18th and early 19th century Barbados
Douglass Armstrong

2:30 – 3 PM

3:00 – 5 PM
Panel Discussion 6, moderated by Sara Zewde

Toward a Black Historical Ecology of the Atlantic World
Justin Dunnavant

Beneath the Surfaces of Historical Landscapes: Archaeology, African and Indigenous Diasporic Communities, and the Great Dismal Swamp of Virginia and North Carolina
Daniel Sayers 

Living Freedom in The Maroon Landscape: An Ecological Way of Life
Diane Jones Allen

5:00 – 5:15 PM
Closing Remarks

Keynote Speaker

Michael W. Twitty is a living history interpreter, culinary historian, and food writer personally charged with teaching, documenting, and preserving the African American culinary traditions of the historic South and its connections with the wider African Atlantic world as well as parent traditions in Africa. He blogs at He’s appeared on Bizarre Foods America with Andrew Zimmern, Many Rivers to Cross with Henry Louis Gates, and most recently Taste the Nation with Top Chef‘s Padma Lakshmi and a special guest appearance in Michelle Obama’s Waffles and Mochi show on Netflix. HarperCollins released Twitty’s The Cooking Gene, in 2017, tracing his ancestry through food from West and Central Africa to America and from slavery to freedom. The Cooking Gene won the 2018 James Beard Award for best writing as well as the book of the year, making him the first Black author so awarded. His piece on visiting Ghana in Bon Appetit was included in Best Food Writing in 2019 and was nominated for a 2019 James Beard Award. Twitty’s next book, Rice with UNC press, is currently fresh off the presses. Koshersoul, about his culinary journey as a Jew of African descent, will be out in 2022 through HarperCollins. He was most recently named a National Geographic Explorer in 2021.


Diane Jones Allen, D. Eng., PLA, FASLA is Program Director and Professor of Landscape Architecture, University of Texas, Arlington. She is Principal Landscape Architect with DesignJones LLC which received the 2016 American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Community Service Award.  She participated on the 2017 ASLA Blue Ribbon Panel on Climate Change. Diane serves on the board of the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) as vice president of education for the 2021 year.  Diane is author of Lost in the Transit Desert: Race Transit Access and Suburban Form, Routledge Press, 2017, and co-editor of Design as Democracy: Techniques for Collective Creativity, Island Press, 2017. Diane is part of one of two cross disciplinary teams that won the 2020 SOM Foundation Research Prize focused on examining social justice in urban contexts.  She also received an appointment as fellow for Garden and Landscape Studies at Dumbarton Oaks for the 2021-2022 academic year.

is Senior Lecturer in the Department of History at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She is a historian of architecture, landscapes and material culture with 20 years of experience gained at public history and academic institutions. She teaches the history of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century America and historic preservation. She is co-author of Washington and Baltimore Art Deco: A Design History of Neighboring Cities (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014). Her current research focuses on the Mid-Atlantic’s rural buildings and landscapes, the farming patterns that shaped them, and their preservation.

Dr. Justin Dunnavant is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at UCLA. His current research in the US Virgin Islands investigates the relationship between ecology and enslavement in the former Danish West Indies. In addition to his archaeological research, Justin is co-founder and President of the Society of Black Archaeologists and an AAUS Scientific SCUBA Diver. In 2021, he was named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer and inducted into The Explorers Club as one of “Fifty People Changing the World that You Need to Know About.” He is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. His research has been featured on Netflix’s “Explained,” Hulu’s “Your Attention Please” and in print in American Archaeology and Science Magazine.

James French founded the Montpelier Descendants Committee (MDC) and joined the Board of The Montpelier Foundation (TMF) in 2019. The MDC educates the public about the social, intellectual and economic contributions to the nation’s founding of enslaved Americans across Central Virginia, including at James Madison’s plantation, Montpelier. Mr. French strenuously advocated for power sharing to a largely resistant board and led the MDC in achieving structural parity with The Montpelier Foundation by innovating a widely applicable model for resolving legacy power imbalances in organizations. The MDC is the only descendant organization to establish itself as an equal co-steward of a major historic site in America. Mr. French is a graduate of the Darden Business School at the University of Virginia and has worked in international banking, government and in entrepreneurial roles across the globe. Mr. French is launching a fintech startup focused on emerging economies in Africa and beyond. 

Elleza Kelley is a Postdoctoral Associate at Yale University in the departments of English and African American Studies. Her current book project explores black spatial knowledge and practice through African American literature and visual art. Kelley is a co-founder of the BSA at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, where she acts as a senior advisor, programming symposia and producing publications related to blackness and architecture. Kelley writes and teaches on a range of subjects from black aesthetics and black geographies to historical fiction. Kelley’s writing can be found in Antipode: A Radical Journal of GeographyThe New InquiryCabinet Magazine, and elsewhere.

Pauline M. Kulstad González has a B.A. in Latin American Studies and Anthropology from Macalester College in Minnesota (USA); a Masters in Latin American Studies from the University of Florida (concentration Archaeology) (USA); and a PhD in Archaeology from Leiden University (The Netherlands).

Her consulting firm (PK Research and Translations) focuses on 16th century Spanish Hispaniola research, both archival and in the field. She specializes in 16th century paleography. Her work has focused mainly on translating and interpreting (English/Spanish), providing administrative assistance, and organizing meetings with multiple stakeholders. She has worked as in-country liaison in the Dominican Republic for various international commercial and educational organizations.

Nicholas Paskert is a doctoral candidate in African American history in the Department of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. He is presently finishing a dissertation on urban slavery and the built environment in African colonial New Orleans from 1718-1852. His research has been supported by Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the Charles Warren Center for American History, the Historic New Orleans Collection and Tulane University’s New Orleans Center for the Gulf South. He received a BA in Psychology from Lawrence University in 2003, two BAs in Interdisciplinary Studies and History from the University of New Orleans in 2011, and an MA in African American Studies from Harvard University in 2014. His forthcoming article “Coercing the Delta: The French Grammar of Control in the African Landscape of New Orleans, 1699-1732” is scheduled for publication in September 2021 in the journal Global Environment.

Matthew Reeves is the Director of Archaeology at James Madison’s Montpelier in Orange, Virginia.  His specialty is sites of the African Diaspora including plantation and freedman period sites, and Civil War. In his 20 years at Montpelier, Reeves has developed a strong public archaeology program known for its citizen science approach to research. At the heart of this program is community-based research with a heavy focus on investing descendant communities in the research and interpretation process and governance of cultural institutions. He has also led the archaeological discipline in devising new ways to engage metal detector hobbyists and archaeological survey through his department’s work locating the living and work sites of the enslaved community across the 2700-acre Montpelier property. These new site discoveries hold the future for Montpelier continuing to tell the story of the enslaved community.

Daniel O. Sayers is Associate Professor of Anthropology at American University in Washington D.C. As a Historical Archaeologist, Sayers has analyzed and interpreted many archaeological sites across the U.S. through landscape perspectives that are informed by his political-economic approach and orientation. He is the author of many academic articles, he has made numerous media appearances, and he has worked with several museums on archaeological exhibits. Sayers is the author of the book, A Desolate Place for a Defiant People: The Archaeology of Maroons, Indigenous Americans, and Enslaved Laborers in the Great Dismal Swamp (2014, University Press of Florida) and is completing a book manuscript, “Historical Archaeology of the Homeless and the Home” (also for the University Press of Florida).


Joyce E. Chaplin is the James Duncan Phillips Professor of Early American History at Harvard University. A former Fulbright Scholar, she’s the author, most recently, of The First Scientific American: Benjamin Franklin and the Pursuit of Genius (2006), finalist for a LA Times Book Prize and winner of the Annibel Jenkins Prize of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, and (with Alison Bashford) The New Worlds of Thomas Robert Malthus: Rereading the Essay on the Principle of Population (2016). Her work has been translated into French, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Estonian, and, forthcoming, into Turkish and Chinese. She has written for the Times Literary Supplement, the New York Times, and the London Review of Books. She is currently working on a history of conservation, climate change, and settler colonialism, “The Franklin Stove: Heat and Lifes in the Little Ice Age,” supported by a Guggenheim Fellowship. Follow Joyce on Twitter.

Matthew Mulcahy is professor of history at Loyola University Maryland. His research focuses on the history of hurricanes and other natural disasters in colonial British America. He is the author of Hurricanes and Society in the British Greater Caribbean, 1624-1783 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006) and Hubs of Empire: The Southeastern Lowcountry and British Caribbean (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014). He and Stuart Schwartz have recently completed a broad survey of disasters in the early modern Caribbean that will be published in Philip Morgan, J.R. McNeill, Stuart Schwartz, and Matthew Mulcahy, Sea and Land: An Environmental History of the Caribbean to about 1850 (Oxford University Press, forthcoming).