Processional Culture and Black Mobility in Maggie Washington's Wilmington


  • Elijah Gaddis Auburn University



material culture, landscape, mobility, Jonkonnu, postbellum US South


This article addresses changes in the built environment of the postbellum American South through an examination of the life histories, parade routes, and costuming practices of the Afro-Caribbean Jonkonnu masking tradition. I juxtapose the stories of two practitioners of the tradition across the color line in turn-of-the-twentieth-century Wilmington, North Carolina. Using a material culturally inflected approach to the study of landscapes, I use these two narratives to deepen the histories of African American processional cultures toward a longer time span and a more immersive, performer-oriented approach. Though few conventional objects of ornamentation and display from these practices survive, this article posits that an approach rooted in the materiality of landscape can help uncover festive cultures that have been understudied or undertheorized in more conventional historical approaches. Further, the ubiquitous presence of Jonkonnu and other Black processional traditions in the post-emancipation city suggests the importance of these and other objects, practices, and larger cultures of celebration in combating white supremacist culture. 

Author Biography

Elijah Gaddis, Auburn University

Elijah Gaddis is an assistant professor of history at Auburn University where he teaches courses on material culture, the built environment, and museums. He holds a doctorate in American studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is currently completing his first book, “Gruesome Looking Objects: Material Culture and the Landscape of Lynching.”




How to Cite

Gaddis, Elijah. 2021. “Processional Culture and Black Mobility in Maggie Washington’s Wilmington”. Journal of Festive Studies 3 (1):72-91.