In commemoration of the 1619 arrival of the first Africans in English North America, the Hampton History Museum will open a new addition to its 17th century section of the Hampton History Galleries on Saturday, August 20.
Museum admission will be free on Saturday, August 20, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., and Sunday, August 21, 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Drawing on the latest research, the exhibit will tell the story of the Africans’ home in Angola, how they came to be enslaved aboard a Spanish slave ship Sao Juao Bautista, the terrible 10,000 nautical mile voyage that brought them to Virginia, and their lives on the farms and plantations in the new colony.
On August 20, 1619 the privateer White Lion arrived off Point Comfort near present day Fort Monroe. Aboard was a captive cargo of “..not any thing but 20. and odd Negroes, which the Governor and Cape Marchant bought for victualls…” (John Rolfe, 1619. Letter to Sir Edwin Sandys of the Royal Virginia Company).
These 20 individuals were the first Africans brought to the new Virginia colony. Their names, given by Portuguese missionaries and changed here in Virginia were: Antony, Isabela, William, Angela, Anthony, Frances, Margaret, Anthony, John, Edward, Anthony and others whose names are not yet known.
The Virginia colony’s first Africans had lived in the Ndongo Kingdom in Angola in West Central Africa on a lush, green, high plateau 150 miles from the Atlantic. The Portuguese and their mercenary allies, the Imbangala, waged war on the Ndongo kingdom, the most powerful state in the Mbundu region, to gain control of the region and provide slaves for the trade.
The Angolans on the White Lion had been taken from the Spanish slave ship Sao Juao Bautista. The Captain of the White Lion, John Jope, traded the captured Angolans to the Virginians represented by Governor George Yeardley and his Cape Merchant Abraham Piersey. These were in turn taken into servitude in local homes and plantations.
The exhibit details how the Africans came into the possession of Captain Jope and taken aboard the White Lion, including the politics and piracy that put them in the hands of the Englishmen who had taken them from the Spanish slave trader and diverted them from their original destination of Vera Cruz in Mexico to Virginia.
The exhibit will contain a pair of slave shackles from the period, a hoe and axe dating from around 1660 unearthed at the Thomas Jarvis site in Hampton (where the Hampton History Museum now stands), images of period maps of Virginia and West Africa, 17th century artists depictions of encounters in Africa and arrival in Virginia, as well as charts detailing the arduous journey that the Africans were subjected to, a model of the White Lion and other interpretive materials.
Inclusion of “1619: The Arrival of the First Africans” into the Hampton History Galleries is being done in conjunction with a host of events taking place throughout the City of Hampton on August 19-21 commemorating the arrival of the first Africans in English North America. Further information on African Arrival Day Commemoration events and activities can be found at www.africanarrivalday.com
The Hampton History Museum is located at 120 Old Hampton Lane in Downtown Hampton. There is plenty of free parking in the garage across the street from the museum. For more information, dial 757/727-1610 or visit www.HamptonHistoryMuseum.org.