The extraordinary life of John Wesley Gilbert, the first Black archaeologist
By any measure, John Wesley Gilbert led an extraordinary life. Born into slavery, he became one of America’s great scholars — a classicist, a linguist, an archaeologist and an educator.
His drive, faith and commitment to education took him from the poverty of his native Georgia to Brown University, Greece, Africa and beyond.
And yet Gilbert, who was also a fierce advocate for interracial cooperation, is little known to the general public. Now, a new biography aims to correct that oversight.
“The First Black Archaeologist: A Life of John Wesley Gilbert” (Oxford University Press, 2022) by John W.I. Lee, an associate professor of history at UC Santa Barbara, meticulously traces the pioneering scholar’s rise to national prominence in an era when African Americans often faced obstacles in obtaining even an elementary education.archeology, John W.I. Lee, John Wesley Gilbert, research, UC Santa Barbara