Department or Program

Environmental Studies


I research the environmental history of formerly enslaved Blacks who established maroon communities in the Great Dismal Swamp from about 1730-1865. The Great Dismal Swamp is a large wetland spanning southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. I first analyze the ecological knowledge and practices that enslaved people developed while in bondage, such as home construction, hunting, foraging, and gardening. However, both the plantation agroecosystems and the swamp ecosystem were contested ecologies due to the contrasting perspectives and manipulations of environments by Blacks and whites. I argue that formerly enslaved Africans and people of African descent formed relationships with the ecology of the swamp through fostering egalitarian communities and mounting resistance against white plantation society. For instance, they constructed long-lasting homes that required a significant investment of time and labor as well as ecological knowledge of the swamp’s heterogeneous soils and hydrology. Archaeological evidence suggests that maroons engineered cisterns in relation with the hydrologic cycle and cultivated gardens with attention to agroecology and biogeochemistry, around which they could coalesce enduring communities and social systems. Despite whites’ efforts to transform the wetland into an ecology of slavery, maroons developed an ecology of resistance by using the swamp’s biodiverse edges, challenging terrain, and maze-like waterways to network with other Blacks and even support rebellions against white plantation society.

Level of Access

Restricted: Embargoed [Bates Community After Expiration]

First Advisor

Joe Hall

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file


Available to Bates Community via local IP address or Bates login on Wednesday, April 26, 2028.