Lori Lee


Objects classified as personal adornment are often vested with meanings that reveal significant insight into their owners’ lives because they are personal. The context in which objects are used is critical to understanding potential meanings. This essay considers the recontextualization of glass beads, a pierced coin, and a decorative, fist-shaped, metal-alloy clothing fastener used by enslaved laborers at antebellum Poplar Forest Plantation. The enslaved mobilized these forms of material culture in shared and idiosyncratic ways to assert varying degrees of control over elements of their daily lives, such as health, well-being, family life, and self-definition.