[dropcap]A[/dropcap]ugust 23rd is International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, and on this day, Virginia’s 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution™ recognizes the 399th anniversary of the arrival of the first documented Africans in English North America. African culture has had an indelible and enduring influence on the trajectory of Virginia and American history.
In August 1619 a ship called the White Lion forcibly landed “20 and odd” enslaved Africans at Point Comfort, Virginia (today’s Hampton, Va.). These individuals were brought to the colony in bondage from the kingdom of Ndonga, which historians believe is present-day Angola. Although slavery was not officially acknowledged by Virginia laws until 1661, the first Africans were treated as slaves and were traded to the colonists for provisions.
“The annual remembrance of the arrival of the first Africans offers an opportunity to elevate the untold and under-told stories of the first Africans in English North America, and challenge inaccurate historical narratives about 399 years of the African American experience in America,” said Kathy Spangler, Executive Director of the 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution. “African American, European and Virginia Indian cultures collided in 1619 Virginia and set our nation on a course towards the ideals of Democracy, Diversity and Opportunity. Over the next year and half the 2019 Commemoration is convening events, scholarship, educational initiatives, performances and exhibitions that examine and lift up the African American experience as we work to tell a more inclusive and authentic narrative of Virginia and America’s history.”
Diversity is a central theme in Virginia’s 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution, which will host more than 20 events, programs and educational initiatives over the coming 18 months. The 2019 Commemoration invites everyone to attend its events, engage on social media and learn about the key 1619 Virginia events that brought African, Native American, and European cultures together 400 years ago, and explore the impact of these pivotal events in the creation of modern day United States. A full schedule of African-American and American Evolution programming can be found here.
- Virginia History Trails App
Virginia’s 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution and Virginia Governor Ralph Northam recently announced the launch of the Virginia History Trails mobile app, which includes the locations and descriptions of more than 400 stories, and 200 historic sites, as well as 20 thematic trails across the Commonwealth. The featured stories and sites highlight important African-American history.
- American Evolution Stories
A digital storytelling platform that encourages Virginians and Americans to explore the many stories that have shaped our American Evolution and be inspired to share their own. With an entire section dedicated to African-American history, this website collects and preserves untold or under-told stories from 1619 to today.
- Faith Journeys in the Black Experience 1619-2019 Conference, March 19 – 21, 2019
The Virginia Council of Churches, and the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University will convene a conference focusing on “The Missiology of Jamestown 1619 and Its Implications” to explore long-standing assumptions related to Christian mission. It will focus on religion in 1619 Jamestown, its impact on Native Americans and Africans, and the origins of a religious and culturally diverse 21st-century America.
- Historic Jamestowne: Democracy & Diversity, April 1 – September 30, 2019
Jamestown Rediscovery and the National Park Service will focus on the establishment of representative government and rule of law, protections for private property, and sustained encounters among different peoples – Native Americans, Europeans, and Africans – who first came together at Jamestown. This includes programs that exhibit the site where one of the first documented Africans in Virginia, “Angela,” lived in the mid-1620s.
- Dance Theatre of Harlem World Premiere, May 3 – 5, 2019
The 2019 Commemoration and the Virginia Arts Festival have commissioned the Dance Theatre of Harlem to choreograph a new ballet that deepens our understanding of the original three cultures of Virginia – Native American, European, and African – and the ongoing impact of diversity in America today.
- Souls Grown Deep: African American Art at VMFA, June 8 – November 17, 2019
Timed to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Africans in Virginia in 1619, this special exhibition celebrates the extraordinary contributions that African American artists have made to art and culture since that time. The exhibition will include paintings, sculptures, installations, drawings and quilts from the VMFA’s permanent collection and will feature recent acquisitions of works by contemporary African American artists from the Southern U.S.
- Determined: The 400-year Struggle for Black Equality, June 19, 2019 – January 5, 2020
The Virginia Museum of History & Culture exhibition will explore the African American experience from the arrival of the first Africans in English North America in 1619 to the present day. This exhibition charts the advances and setbacks, the triumphs and trials of African Americans on their long and unfinished journey toward full equality by focusing on a series of key Virginians and key Virginia events – individuals and events that shaped the broader contours of American history.
- African Arrival: Fort Monroe Visitor and Education Center Dedication Ceremony, August 23 – 25, 2019
To commemorate the 400th Anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in English North America, the 2019 Commemoration will showcase the dedication ceremony with hosts, Fort Monroe Authority and the National Park Service. This project involves the renovation of the former Coast Artillery School Library at Fort Monroe, where profound stories of Captain John Smith, the arrival of the first enslaved Africans, and the culmination of 242 years of slavery as the first contrabands came to Fort Monroe to receive their emancipation, will be told.
- 1619: Making of America Summit, September 25– 28, 2019
This two-day cross-cultural event will begin with the exploration of the contributions and influences of the three founding cultures African, Native Peoples, and English. This expanding cultural tapestry of our nation will be explored by celebrated scholars, artists, film makers, musicians, and students from throughout the nation.
American Evolution™ is commemorating formative events that occurred in 1619 Virginia. In addition to the arrival of the first recorded African to English North America, these pivotal events include the First Representative Legislative Assembly in the New World, the recruitment of English women in significant numbers to the Virginia colony, the first official English Thanksgiving in North America and the entrepreneurial and innovative spirit of the Virginia colony.
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