Plotting the black commons

J. T. Roane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


This article examines Black communities’ engagement with practices of place and alternative figurations of land and water in the antebellum and post-emancipation periods around the lower–Chesapeake Bay. It historicizes the work of enslaved, free, and emancipated communities to create a distinctive and often furtive social architecture rivaling, threatening, and challenging the infrastructures of abstraction, com-modification, and social control developed by white elites before and after the formal abolition of slavery. Practices centered in the various iterations of the plot—the site of the body’s interment, the garden parcel, and hidden insurrectionary activity—fostered a vision of de-commodified water and landscapes as well as resources. Evolving in dialectic with mastery and dominion—or biblically justified total control—enslaved and post-emancipation communities claimed and created a set of communal resources within the interstices of plantation ecologies, constituting the Black commons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)239-266
Number of pages28
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 3 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Environmentalism
  • Racial capitalism
  • Resistance
  • Slavery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science


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