Ayana Omilade Flewellen

  • Words Sala Elise Patterson
  • Photography Ted Belton

A scholar at one with the elements.

  • Words Sala Elise Patterson
  • Photography Ted Belton

When archaeologist Ayana Omilade Flewellen is excavating a site, they are in pursuit not only of artifacts but also of signs of humanity. More precisely, they are looking for physical evidence left by enslaved Africans and their descendants of lives lived, love bestowed and fates crushed or graced with good fortune. For Flewellen, an assistant professor of archaeology at Stanford University, retrieving that evidence is about more than archaeological discovery. It is an exercise in dismantling dominant narratives about Black people in the United States. At former slave plantations, or in waters off the US Virgin Islands, their work holds up these fragments of the past and presents them as a challenge: Claim the hurt you have inflicted, confront the humanity whose existence you had to den...

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