Resistance on the Landscape: Excavations at Montpelier’s Stable Quarter

Abstract: Very few domestic sites associated with enslaved African Americans exist in unplowed contexts [Slide 1]. At James Madison’s Montpelier, located in the Piedmont region of Virginia, three distinct domestic sites associated with the enslaved workers on James Madison’s plantation have been identified in soils that have been minimally disturbed since the 19th century. These include the housing for domestic workers; dwellings for enslaved field laborers; and a dwelling for skilled laborers, called the Stable Quarter for its proximity to a Madison stable [Slide 2]. The Montpelier Foundation will be conducting extensive excavations in all of these areas over the next three years. This paper focuses on recently concluded excavations at the Stable Quarter, which is located between the house and field quarters. Results of these excavations included multiple features related to a log cabin structure and surrounding borrow pit features filled with occupation refuse. Interpretations of these findings reveal ways in which enslaved individuals at Montpelier seem exhibit a rejection of, or indifference to, particular aesthetic opinions held by the plantation owner, President Madison.