BORN A SLAVE, DIED A PIONEER

Few people in the history of the United States embody ideals of the American Dream more than Nathan Harrison (1833-1920). His is a story with prominent themes of overcoming staggering obstacles, forging something- from-nothing, and evincing gritty perseverance. In a lifetime of hard-won progress, Harrison survived the horrors of slavery in the Antebellum South, endured the mania of the California Gold Rush, and prospered in the rugged chaos of the Old West.

SDSU Anthropology Professor Seth Mallios has conducted archaeological excavations at Harrison’s original hillside homestead since 2004; his field schools have uncovered over 50,000 artifacts, providing spectacular new insights into this most American biography.

View the Virtual Exhibit

Upcoming Events & News

Summer 2021 Field School

  • June 1-19, 2021: Archaeological field school
  • July 19-August 6, 2021: Archaeological lab class

Download the program application

March 18, 2021
"Nathan Harrison: Born a Slave, Died a San Diego Legend" exhibit opens virtually
San Diego History Center

October 10, 2020
Mount Hope Cemetery commemoration of 100-year anniversary of Harrison’s passing

February 5, 2020
Lunch & Learn with Elsa Sevilla featuring Dr. Seth Mallios
The San Diego History Center

December 2019
Technical report (#8) release

October 2019
Book release: Born a Slave, Died a Pioneer: Nathan Harrison and the Historical Archaeology of Legend

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