An interesting tidbit of history is reported in Arab News today. It concerns the quest for the grave and perhaps other remains of the life of one of the first identified Muslims in America, Yarrow Mamout, a freed slave who died and was buried in what is now the prestigious Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, DC.

Historians try to dig out details of America’s earliest Muslims
Julienne Gage

FOR most Muslims, what happens to the body of a deceased person is not quite as important as what happens to that person’s soul. Still, historians of all backgrounds are scrambling to locate the body and belongings of a Muslim buried in Washington, D.C. nearly 200 years ago, for it touches the soul of early American history.

The deceased, Yarrow Mamout, was among tens of thousands — if not millions — of Muslims brought to America during the slave trade, but one of few for which historians have much information.

Historic documents suggest Yarrow may be buried on the property he purchased after gaining his independence in 1797. That land is located in Washington’s historic Georgetown neighborhood where homes now sell for several million dollars. Its owner, real estate developer Deyi Awadallah, hopes to build and sell a new residence on the property. He knew nothing of Yarrow when he purchased the land last spring, but he’s willing to give archaeologists a chance — a few weeks or months — to investigate before he finalizes his plans.

“I’m trying to respect the situation. It deserves that,” he said in an interview this month.


November:22:2012 - 06:37 | Comments & Trackbacks (8) | Permalink
8 Responses to “Early History of Muslims in America”
  1. 1
    Swedish Said:
    November:23:2012 - 06:58 

    I read somewhere that a lot of slaves were muslims. It is interesting that our first wave came with the founding of the the nation.

  2. 2
    Aunty May Said:
    November:24:2012 - 15:56 

    John,

    Here is a treasure of a book that I am sure you would very much enjoy: James Deetz’s “In small things forgotten”. This book was part of our reading material during my undergrad.

    Anyone who has an interest in history and archeology will be much appreciative of it.

  3. 3
    John Burgess Said:
    November:24:2012 - 16:11 

    @Aunty May: Thanks, that look interesting!

  4. 4
    Bigstick1 Said:
    November:25:2012 - 18:51 

    So how is the locating of the bones going to shed light on anything? Does being muslim somehow change bones? Curious as to what the point of this is?

  5. 5
    John Burgess Said:
    November:25:2012 - 22:30 

    @Bigstick1: Two things… first, the history of both early America and slavery in America are of interest. The cemetery under investigation is in the yard of the house this particular person owned. It is presumed to be a slave cemetery (or perhaps for freed slaves), and is of intrinsic interest to historians, sociologists, etc. Second, the site itself is a complicated one that includes at least a house and its foundations. These are of interest to historians, sociologists, architects. The bits and pieces found in such sites tell about the lives of those who lived on them.

  6. 6
    Solomon2 Said:
    November:25:2012 - 22:41 

    Some details on the property here.

  7. 7
    Aunty May Said:
    November:27:2012 - 15:03 

    @Bigstick 1

    Skeletal matter can reveal alot about the past:
    Diseases
    Diet
    Cause of death
    Life styles
    Rituals
    Class systems
    Historic technologies
    Settlement patterns
    Trade and Exchange
    Education
    Toys
    Household appliances
    Weapons
    Average life span
    Animal domestication
    Hunting and Gathering
    Slave routes
    Population
    Ethnicity

  8. 8
    John Burgess Said:
    November:27:2012 - 17:10 

    @Aunty May: I once sponsored a Fulbright Fellow who was researching the diet of inhabitants of an area who lived 4,500 years ago, based on the wear patterns and micro-grooving of their teeth. She was working at the level of species of barley and wheat.

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