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From Africa to Virginia

February 1-28, 2015
Jamestown Settlement & Yorktown Victory Center
Copper alloy plaque, Kingdom of Benin, ca. 1600. Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation collection. Gift of the Gladys and Franklin Clark Foundation.

Copper alloy plaque, Kingdom of Benin, ca. 1600. Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation collection. Gift of the Gladys and Franklin Clark Foundation.

As part of “From Africa to Virginia” month in February, gallery exhibits and daily interpretive programs highlight the culture of the first recorded Africans in Virginia and the experience of people of African descent in colonial and Revolutionary America.

African-American Musical Imprint Weekend” at Jamestown Settlement on February 14-15 will feature performances by “The Storyteller” Dylan Pritchett, the Northern Neck Chantey Singers and Legacy of Weyanoke.

Jamestown Settlement Galleries

The “From Africa to Virginia” theme is reflected in a printed family guide of Jamestown Settlement’s expansive gallery exhibits, which chronicle the nation’s 17th-century beginnings in Virginia in the context of its Powhatan Indian, English and African cultures. The parent culture of Africans brought to Virginia in 1619 is portrayed in a diorama that includes a full-scale dwelling and artifacts from the Ambundu culture of Angola. A dramatic multimedia presentation describes African encounters with Europeans, the impact on African culture, and the development of the transatlantic slave trade.

Other exhibits tell about Virginia’s tobacco-cultivation economy and its relationship to the evolution of slavery in the colony. A structure re-created from an archaeological site depicts a late-17th-century slave quarter alongside a planter’s house and Indian cabin, also based on Virginia archaeological sites. Decorative objects of ivory and metal made by west-central- African craftspeople, and archaeologically found objects made or used by enslaved people in Virginia can be seen in the gallery exhibits.

Jamestown Settlement gallery African exhibit themes are reflected in two special tours available to groups with advance reservations.

Daily Interpretive Programs

At Jamestown Settlement, “Life on the Waterways” at 10:30 a.m. daily in the re-created Powhatan Indian village invites visitors to help fashion a dugout canoe and compare and contrast Powhatan and Angolan cultures while learning about canoes and fishing. “African Arrival,” a role-play experience at 1 p.m. daily at the replica 1607 English ships, illuminates the circumstances of the 1619 arrival in Virginia of 20-some Africans who had been captured by English privateers from a Portuguese ship en route from Angola to Mexico. “Weapons and Warfare” at 2:30 p.m. at the re-created fort compares African and English warfare techniques and culminates with the firing of matchlock musket.

British 33rd Regiment of Foot coatAt the Yorktown Victory Center’s re-created Continental Army encampment, at noon daily, historical interpreters will discuss the roles of African Americans in the Revolutionary War and the 1775 proclamation by Lord Dunmore, Virginia’s royal governor, promising freedom to people enslaved by rebellious colonists, if they came to the British side. Representations of a coat worn by formerly enslaved people who joined the British 33rd Regiment of Foot and a hat from the American army’s 1st Rhode Island Regiment, which for a time during the Revolution included several companies of African-American soldiers, will be displayed. At 2 p.m. daily, the re-created Revolution-era farm will offer a glimpse of the lives and roles of enslaved people on a small farm and African influence on American foodways.

 Special programs are included with admission.

Educational Resources

Image Gallery – West Central Africans

Video Resources

Discovering Jamestown: The West Central Africans

Background Historical Essays

The Angolan Connection and Slavery in Virginia

The Evolution of the Slave Quarter in Tidewater Virginia

Antislavery Sentiment in Pre-Revolutionary Virginia