How a dilapidated old house could hold the clues to understanding significant African American history on Long Island

HUNTINGTON, Long Island (WABC) -- It is not often you see an archaeological dig in the middle of a Long Island town, but along Creek Rd., a dilapidated old house could hold the clues to understanding some of the most significant pieces of African American history in Huntington.

"The contributions really are, how an African American was able to make it, really at a time when a lot of times our people were held back," said Reverend Glorious Artis of the African American Designation Council.

In this case, it was Peter Crippen, an African American who moved here from Virginia in the 1830s, and eventually owned the property and worked in the area's brickyards, a staple for the New York City market.

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Also unearthed were a bronze ladle, nine amphorae, which were popular food containers in Roman times, a couple of flasks and a ceramic oil container.

"A lot of people think about the Great Migration of the 20th Century is when African Americans came up from the South, but in fact, it started as early as the 1830s," said Huntington Town Historian Robert Hughes.

One of Peter Crippen's descendants actually walked through the area yesterday with the archaeologists and gave them a memory map, for guidance in the dig.

"Archaeology is an interesting way of telling the lived experience of people whose stories may have been left out, or incorrectly told in historical record," said archaeologist Dr. Allison McGovern.

Crippen is also a founder of what became Bethel A.M.E. Church - Huntington's oldest for Black Americans. The property was in the Crippen family for nearly two centuries, was set to be demolished until the town accepted a grant for a five-day dig, and now, hopefully preservation of the oldest part - the home's north side.
"The long-term plan is to relocate the restored structure - it's feasible to do so," said Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci.

The ultimate Holy Grail - someday, enough pieces of Black history to fill a new museum - one that would make Crippen proud.

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"Our walls are filled with bundles of booze! I can't believe the rumors are true!"

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