Sunday, December 12, 2010

Gravestone of the Day: Peter Hart & Jubaafford Greenhill-Hart

Peter Hart & Jubaafford Greenhill-Hart, 1763 & 1755, NCBG, Newport, RI

In Memory of
Peter Son of
Michael &
Jane Hart
died Novr ye
5th 176[3] in ye
[10?]th Year of
his Age

In Memory
of Jubaafford
Daughter of 
Harford Green
hill & Jane
Hart died Janr

Peter and Jubaafford were the children of Jane Hart, a slave in Newport, Rhode Island. I don't know for sure which Newport slaveowner owned Jane and her children, but he/she was probably a member of the extensive Hart family, one of the largest and oldest Jewish merchant families in Newport.

The name that caught my eye here was Jubaafford. Google reveals no other Jubaaffords, Jubaffords, Jubaafords, or Jubafords whose records have made it to the internet. Juba is a tricky word to pin down; it is variously a term associated with African-American music, dance, and performers, a name for leftover food, and the Akan name for girls born on Mondays.

It is probably impossible to know for certain how Jubaafford Greenhill-Hart came by her name, but I will venture a tentative speculation. If her father's name was Harford, it seems possible that Jubaafford may be a compound name: Juba + Harford = Jubaafford. Venturing even further out onto the overreaching tendrils of conjecture, it is possible that Jane could have been the slaveowner-given name of an African-born woman named Juba, in much the way that Phibba was often mangled into Phoebe. Even if Jane Hart was named Jane at birth, any name containing "Juba" would be read as a link to West African cultural continuity in a city where many of the most prominent slaves (Newport Gardner/Occramar Mirycoo, Jack Mason/Salmar Nubia) were African-born. To me, Jubaafford seems like a name that is meant to do a lot of work by linking a child to West African language and culture, as well as preserving a link to a paternal name even when slavery prevented the establishment of legally-recognized families and surnames.

Thoughts? Other explanations?

*According to the Rhode Island Historical Cemeteries Transcription Project, Jubaafford was born around 1749 and died in 1755.

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