2019 is the 400th anniversary of the first Africans to arrive in the Jamestown colony. The Historic Jamestowne historical site is commemorating the arrival of these Africans and the legacy of slavery in the settlement with its “First Africans” tour. Learn more in this Associated Press article.
On a recent afternoon, tour guide Justin Bates pointed to the spot where historic Jamestown’s legislature first convened in July 1619. He then gestured toward a spot nearby where some of the first slaves in English North America arrived a few weeks later.
“Freedom over there,” Bates told visitors near the banks of Virginia’s James River. “Slavery over here.”
Jamestown has long been associated with the legend of Pocahontas and more recently as a place where a harsh winter turned some colonists into cannibals. But the historic site is now offering a regular tour that encourages visitors to consider the beginnings of American slavery.
The “First Africans” tour is the first of its kind at Historic Jamestowne, a heritage site at the location of the 1607 James Fort. But it’s part of a much larger reckoning over slavery, an institution that took root in England’s first permanent colony 12 years after its founding.
In January, President Donald Trump signed into a law the “400 Years of African-American History Commission Act.” It requires a commission to develop programs that acknowledge the Africans arrival in 1619 and slavery’s impact.
Meanwhile, Virginia has launched its 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution. It recognizes the first English-style legislature in North America in Jamestown and other historical milestones from four centuries ago, including the Africans’ arrival.
In 1619, the Africans came on two ships, the White Lion and the Treasurer, that had recently raided what’s believed to have been a Spanish slave vessel in the Gulf of Mexico. Sailing into the Chesapeake Bay to what is now Hampton, Virginia, the ships traded more than 30 Africans for food and supplies.
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