African story themes
Jamestown Settlement & American Revolution Museum at Yorktown
Jamestown Settlement ‘1607: A Nation Takes Root’ Docudrama Features Story of Angelo of Angola
Jamestown Settlement’s introductory film “1607: A Nation Takes Root,” shown every 30 minutes in the museum theater, shares the story of three cultures spanning three continents. The docudrama film provides an overview of the first two decades of America’s first permanent English colony and the Powhatan Indian, European and African cultures that converged in early 1600s Virginia. The film chronicles events of Jamestown’s early years – trade and conflict between the English and Powhatans, the struggle of the colonists to survive, the leadership of John Smith and his permanent departure from Virginia in 1609, the installation of a military governor and martial law, and the marriage of Pocahontas, daughter of the Powhatan paramount chief Wahunsonacock, to John Rolfe in 1614, initiating a period of peace between the Powhatans and colonists.
Later the story moves to a village in the kingdom of Ndongo in Angola, on the west coast of Africa. A woman seen in the village, “Angelo,” is later shown as a captive of the Portuguese, waiting to be transported across the sea to Mexico. The Portuguese ship carrying a human cargo of slaves was intercepted en route by English privateers, and 20-some of the Angolans were brought to Virginia, the first documented Africans in the colony. Among them was Angelo, also referred to as “Angela” in historic records, who was known to live in Virginia in 1624. Filming locations included the African country of Angola, where inhabitants of the town of Massangano, using traditional construction methods and materials, built a set depicting a 17th-century Ndongan village. Filmmakers selected Angolan locations where the events of 1619 took place, including Massangano, where captured Angolans were held as prisoners by the Portuguese before being sent to the coast, and the Ilha do Cabo (Cape Island), where enslaved people were loaded on ships and sent to America.
West African Objects on Display in Jamestown Settlement Exhibition Galleries
Jamestown Settlement’s expansive galleries feature one of the most varied collections of objects relating to the nation’s beginnings in 17th-century Virginia, including more than 500 objects representative of the Powhatan Indian, European and west central African cultures. The skill of West African craftsmen as well as African contact with Europeans is reflected in a pair of bronze bracelets from Benin whose decorations include stylized pictures of Portuguese soldiers, and an Owo carved ivory bracelet, an example of an object highly valued by European collectors. Thirty objects from the Ambundu culture of Angola are exhibited courtesy of the Mercer Museum of the Bucks County Historical Society in Doylestown, Pa., in a diorama representing the Ndongan culture of the first known Africans in Virginia. The Ambundu were part of the Ndongo kingdom in the 16th and 17th centuries. Collected in the early 20th century by Swedish American scholar Amandus Johnson, the Ambundu artifacts are similar to the weapons, tools and personal items used by 17th-century Ndongans. A dramatic multimedia presentation, “From Africa to Virginia,” chronicles African encounters with Europeans, the impact on African culture, and the development of the transatlantic slave trade.
‘Liberty Fever’ Introductory Film at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown Features Story of Billy Flora
“Liberty Fever” features stationary silhouettes and moving shadow puppets scrolling by on a large “crankie” interwoven with live-action film segments to tell the stories of five people who lived during the American Revolution, including Billy Flora, an African-American hero of the Battle of Great Bridge in Virginia in 1775. The film, shown every 30 minutes in the museum theater, recently won the American Alliance of Museums’ Gold MUSE Award.
Exceptional and Rare Period Artifacts Mix With Sensory Experiences in Exhibition Galleries at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown
Iconic artifacts of the American Revolution and early national periods are among close to 500 objects on exhibit at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. Along with immersive environments, dioramas, interactive exhibits and short films, period artifacts engage visitors in the story of the American Revolution, from its origins in the mid-1700s to the early
years of the new United States. See a circa 1733 portrait of Ayuba Suleiman Diallo, one of the two earliest known portraits done from life of an African who had been enslaved in the 13 British colonies that became the United States of America. Also on display is a first edition of the Phillis Wheatley volume, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, published in 1773, with her portrait as its fontispiece. In the Revolution section of the galleries, Billy Flora is featured in a diorama with special effects about the 1775 Battle of Great Bridge in Virginia. The wartime homefront is portrayed in three-dimensional settings that provide a backdrop for the stories of diverse Americans – Patriots and Loyalists, women, and enslaved and free African Americans, including Benjamin Banneker, a free African American who became famous in the 1790s as a scientist and writer. A “Personal Stories of the Revolution” interactive exhibit, featuring actors in period attire who portray 20 different people of the Revolution, shares the stories of Billy Flora and James Lafayette, an enslaved African American from New Kent County, Virginia, who successfully spied on the British for the American forces, and then spent much of his life after the war seeking his own liberty from slavery.
Slave Quarter a new Feature of Outdoor Re-creation of Revolution-era Farm at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown
The Revolution-era farm, evokes the world of the 18th-century family of Edward Moss (c.1757-1786), whose life is well-documented in York County, Virginia, records. Moss leased 200 acres from a wealthy cousin and at the time of his death owned six enslaved men, women and children. The story of Edward Moss and his family provides historical interpreters a frame of reference for talking about farm and domestic life as well as the lives of enslaved African Americans during the American Revolution period. A distinctive new feature of the farm is a 12- by 10-foot building to represent quarters for enslaved people, adjacent to a swept yard and small garden. It is constructed of log walls and wood clapboard eaves and roof and equipped with a fireplace and stick and mud chimney as well as a storage pit common in this type of dwelling.