Dr. Whitney Battle-Baptiste: Women in Leadership Speaker Series

Recently the APH community had the privilege of welcoming Dr. Whitney Battle-Baptiste to campus as part of our Women in Leadership Speaker Series. Dr. Battle-Baptiste is a member of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst Dr. Battle-Baptiste teaches about African captivity, racial politics, sexuality, and hip hop culture. In her archaeological research, she focuses on domestic spaces. Her childhood in the Bronx, which she described in a lively and engaging assembly for the school, has given Dr. Battle-Baptiste a unique lens through which to approach her interest in archeology.

APH has a special connection to Dr. Battle-Baptiste. In her first book, Black Feminist Archaeology, she devotes a chapter to revisiting archaeological work done at “Black Lucy’s Garden” in the early 1940’s. This was the homesite of Andover woman and former slave, Lucy Foster. Students in our Out of the Shadows elective have been working passionately on securing a gravestone for Lucy Foster. In her presentation to the school, Dr. Battle-Baptiste challenged the need to label Lucy as “black” and questioned the assumption that because Lucy was black, she must have been poor. In the words of MiKayla J ‘20, “There were many ways Lucy could have obtained her possessions.”

Dr. Battle-Baptiste also raised the powerful possibility that Lucy’s home was a stop on Underground Railroad, a place where those escaping from African captivity felt especially welcome. As Lila C ‘20 put it: “Would people be running toward people they heard were good, or toward people that looked like them? What really hit is me is that we had never been taught than before about the Underground Railroad.” Dr. Battle-Baptiste also encouraged us to imagine Lucy as an independent woman and strong presence in her community. Caroline B ‘19 explained: “I was really struck by the idea that escapees seeking a moment’s rest on their journey might stop at Lucy’s home and be inspired by her life and her possessions as a free black woman.”

In a planning session with the Out of the Shadows class before the assembly, Dr. Battle-Baptiste helped us settle in the language of the epitaph for Lucy’s gravestone. It will read in part, “Known by God and her community.” We at APH are part of that community!  Were you inspired by Dr. Battle-Baptiste? Can you help us bring Lucy out of the shadows by giving her a proper gravestone? Please support our effort by clicking on this link. No amount is too small! Be sure to scroll down and look for the tab labeled “Lucy Foster Gravestone.”