Defining Black Craftspeople

Craftspeople plural

Crafts·peo·ple | \ ˈkraf(t)s-ˌpē-pəl

Definition of craftspeople : workers who practice a trade or craft

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary

“One only needs to go down South and examine hundreds of old Southern mansions, and splendid old church edifices, still intact, to be convinced of the fact of the cleverness of the Negro artisan, who constructed nine-tenths of them, and many of them still provoke the admiration of all who see them, and are not to be despised by the men of our day.”

Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois, The Negro Artisan (Atlanta: Atlanta University Press, 1902), pp. 15–16.

“STAFFORD County, August 20, 1768. RAN away last April, from one of the subscriber’s quarters in Loudoun, (where he had been a short time sawing) a Mulatto slave belonging to Samuel Selden, jun. named Peter Deadfoot…He is an indifferent shoemaker, a good butcher, ploughman, and carterer; an excellent sawyer, and waterman, understands breaking oxen well, and is one of the best sythemen, in America; in short, he is so ingenious a fellow, that he can turn his hand to any thing.”

Virginia Gazette (Rind), September 22, 1768.

The Black Craftspeople Digital Archive includes information on a wide range of craftspeople involved in a variety of trades including:

Carpenters, joiners, coopers, cabinetmakers, sawyers, blacksmiths, tanners, curriers, shoemakers, spinners, weavers, knitters, bricklayers, brick masons, cauklers, cobblers, tailors, seamstresses, quilters, painters, plasterers, watchmakers, goldsmiths, silversmiths, ironworkers, and more.

Drawing on scholarship produced by several historians and sociologists, the BCDA defines Black craftspeople as people of African descent practicing a trade or craft leading to the production of tangible material culture. Black craftspeople include both free and enslaved individuals.