Archaeologist Uncovers the Life of a Free-Black PhiladelphianBreaking News
In 2003, the National Constitution Center and Independence National Historical Park undertook the archaeological excavation of an obscure homesite just east of the center, then under construction.
It was the spot where, in the late 18th century, James Oronoko Dexter rented a modest brick house at 134 N. Fifth St., and where, with the house long demolished, a bus depot for the center was planned.
The excavation, undertaken at the urging of Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church and the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, produced a wealth of artifacts. But Dexter, a prominent member of the nascent free-black community of that time, remained elusive. Like the vast majority of Americans, he simply vanished into the past.
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