WILLIAMSBURG, Va., February 19, 2015 – The Richard S. Reynolds Foundation of Richmond has awarded a grant of $150,000 in support of the recent acquisition of a rare 1730s portrait of Ayuba Suleiman Diallo for exhibit at the future American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, replacing the Yorktown Victory Center. The portrait is one of two known paintings of Diallo made in England by William Hoare, the earliest known portraits done from life of an African who had been enslaved in the British colonies that became the United States of America.
On temporary exhibit at the Yorktown Victory Center last summer before undergoing conservation, the Diallo portrait will be placed in a section of the new museum’s galleries, to open by late 2016, that examines life in the 13 British colonies prior to the Revolutionary War. Diallo, the member of a prominent family of Muslim clerics in Senegal, was captured during a trade mission on the Gambia River in 1731 and transported to the colony of Maryland, where he was enslaved on a tobacco plantation. He was rescued and sailed to England in 1733, where he was befriended by prominent intellectuals and ultimately became a figure embraced by the global abolitionist movement.
“As one of the two earliest known paintings in the world done from life of an individual who had been enslaved in one of the British colonies that became part of the United States, we thought this was an extremely important acquisition for both the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown and the state of Virginia,” said Richard S. Reynolds III, president of the board of the Richard S. Reynolds Foundation. “We were delighted to be able to provide some assistance in the acquisition of this unique painting.”
The Diallo portrait was secured in 2014 with an initial gift from Fred D. Thompson, Jr., a member of the Board of Trustees of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, the Virginia state agency that operates the Yorktown Victory Center and Jamestown Settlement, and undesignated private gifts to the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, Inc.
“Diallo’s portrait offers an important opportunity for the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown’s visitors and school students to learn about the diverse cultures in our history and the significant accomplishments Africans made during the Revolutionary period,” said H. Benson Dendy III, chairman of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation Board of Trustees. “I have the deepest gratitude for the Richard S. Reynolds Foundation, whose generous gifts over the years have helped to transform both of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation’s museums. I am pleased to have their support of this portrait for the future American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.”
Previous grants from the Reynolds Foundation funded acquisition of African artifacts and technology for Jamestown Settlement’s permanent galleries, opened in 2006, that explore the convergence of Powhatan Indian, European and African cultures in 17th-century Virginia. The Reynolds Foundation also supported renovations and enhancements made to the Yorktown Victory Center in the 1990s.
The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown is envisioned to provide a renewed perspective on the meaning and impact of the Revolution and to strengthen the national tourism appeal of the Jamestown-Williamsburg-Yorktown Historic Triangle. Permanent exhibition galleries in a new 80,000-square-foot building will engage visitors through period artifacts, immersive environments, dioramas, interactive exhibits and short films. The building also will house a special exhibition gallery, a theater for showing an introductory film, and classrooms to support educational programming. The museum’s outdoor interpretive areas – a re-created Continental Army encampment and Revolution-period farm – will be restructured and enhanced, linking to gallery themes.
Private donations to the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, Inc., are supporting elements of gallery and outdoor exhibits and educational resources.
The Yorktown Victory Center continues in daily operation as a museum of the American Revolution throughout construction, which is occurring in phases and includes a move from the existing museum building to the new facility in late winter 2015.
For more information about supporting the new museum, visit www.historyisfun.org or call (757) 253-4139.