Page 3 - MidWeek Central - Mar 16, 2022
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                      MARCH 16, 2022 3
 Mililani-raised Man Writes About First Black Archaeologist
Gilbert was the first Afri- can American to attend the school.
Augusta, Georgia.
“I made several trips to
fortability in their cul-de- sac, where mixed race fami- lies like theirs was the norm.
to the bus stop at 5:30 a.m. further down from our house, near Nob Hill. Oth- erwise, if I got on the bus near my house, I wouldn’t be able have a seat and I would have to stand during the whole drive into town,” Lee says.
 Mililani-raised John Lee has been a professor of his- tory at University of Cali- fornia, Santa Barbara since 2000.
“In fact, Gilbert was one of the first 50 Americans of any background to do pro- fessional archaeology in Greece,” Lee says. “I knew very little about African American history, so I de- cided to learn more. I ended up researching the story of Gilbert’s entire life.”
Augusta and benefited enor- mously from the knowledge and advice of local histori- ans and community groups,” Lee shares.
They lived in a neighbor- hood now known as the Mil- ilani Point apartment com- plex, near Mililani Shopping Center.
He focuses on West Asian history, particularly on the Greek and ancient Achae- menid Empire world.
He also spoke at Paine College in Augusta, a histor- ically Black college or uni- versity, which holds Paine as their first student, first graduate and first Black pro- fessor.
“I had so many mixed race friends I wouldn’t have even thought about it in Hawai‘i,” Lee recalls.
“There were a lot of kids taking the bus that early just to get to private school in town. I envied my sib- lings who all attended MHS,” he adds.
This is what led him to writing his current book, which was published in Jan- uary of this year.
What started out as re- search for a scholarly article developed into much more.
For Lee and his family in the 1980s, Mililani was home, or, one of their homes. Growing up, Lee had lived in Seoul, Manila and Taipei along with his three siblings.
His father was Chinese, and his grandfather worked on O‘ahu as a plantation la- borer on a farm that provided rice for plantation workers.
It is titled The First Black Archaeologist: A Life of John Wesley Gilbert and is available for purchase from Oxford University Press.
From 2015 to 2021, Lee conducted extensive re- search that brought him to study archives in Greece and around the United States.
Mililani-raised John Lee holds a copy of his new book The First Black Archaeologist: A Life of John Wesley Gilbert. PHOTO COURTESY JOHN LEE
They moved to Mililani when Lee was 10. Unlike in other parts of the world, there was a unique com-
Lee’s mother is Eastern European and grew up in upstate New York. Lee grad- uated from Punahou School, while his other three siblings graduated from Mililani High School.
Lee also recalls that some of his best memories in Mililani involve going on hikes with his two little brothers.
Lee developed an interest in this topic after discover- ing that John Wesley Gilbert attended the same school in Athens, Greece, that he did.
A key part of his research was to connect with the local African American communi- ty in Gilbert’s hometown of
His father was a U.S. dip- lomat and his mother was a nurse who worked the night shift at Wahiawā General Hospital.
“My dad would take me
“There was a lot more open space then and kids could roam freely,” he re- members of Mililani in the 1980s.
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