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John Coombs, Linda Heywood Lectures on February 6, 27 Highlight 'From Africa to Virginia' Theme Month at Jamestown Settlement

WILLIAMSBURG, Va., January 10, 2011 – Presentations on February 6 and 27 by two leading scholars of African-American history highlight a monthlong “From Africa to Virginia” theme at Jamestown Settlement, a history museum operated by the state’s Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation.  The culture of the first known Africans in Virginia – from the kingdom of Ndongo in Angola – and the experience of Africans in 17th-century Virginia is a focus of daily interpretive programs February 1-28.

At 2 p.m. Sunday, February 6, John C. Coombs, associate professor of history at Hampden-Sydney College, will present “‘Slaves are the most proper and cheape instruments for this plantation’: Re-examining the Initial Establishment of Slavery in Virginia.”  The lecture will challenge the conventional portrayal of the early growth of slavery in Virginia as almost a historical accident, arguing that the initially slow expansion of slavery was more a reflection of the shifting character of Anglo-Spanish rivalry and the rapid economic development of the English West Indies.  Dr. Coombs is author of the forthcoming book “The Rise of Virginia Slavery” and co-editor with Douglas Bradburn of Binghamton University of “Early Modern Virginia: Reconsidering the Old Dominion,” an essay volume to be published in 2011.   

Linda M. Heywood, professor of history and director of the African American Studies Program at Boston University, will speak at 2 p.m., Sunday, February 27, on “Queen Njinga: Legacy, Memory, and Nation in Contemporary Angola.”  Dr. Heywood, author of the book “Contested Power in Angola” and co-author with John K. Thornton of “Central Africans, Atlantic Creoles, and the Foundation of America,” will explore the question of how and why Queen Njinga, who waged war against the Portuguese in the 17th century and is profiled in Jamestown Settlement gallery exhibits, became a figure of memory and a powerful political icon in contemporary Angola.

During February, the theme “From Africa to Virginia” is reflected in a printed family guide of Jamestown Settlement’s expansive gallery exhibits and in daily guided tours of the museum’s outdoor living-history areas.

The galleries 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.

Daily outdoor tours of Jamestown Settlement’s re-created Powhatan Indian village, 1607 English ships and 1610-14 colonial fort, offered every hour from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. February 1-18 and at 11 a.m. and 1 and 3 p.m. February 19-28, compare fishing, hunting, construction and metalworking skills of Africans in Angola with technology used in 17th-century Virginia.  During the tours, participants will be invited to participate in role play that 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.

Jamestown Settlement is located at State Route 31 and the Colonial Parkway next to Historic Jamestowne, administered by Preservation Virginia and the National Park Service, and is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.  Admission is $15.50 for adults and $7.25 for ages 6 through 12.  A value-priced combination ticket with the Yorktown Victory Center, a museum of the American Revolution, is $20 for adults and $10 for ages 6 through 12.  Children under 6 are free, and parking is free at both museums.  Yorktown Victory Center exhibits explore the impact of the Revolution on African Americans.

Special programming at Jamestown Settlement is funded in part by a grant from James City County.

For more information, call (888) 593-4682 toll-free or (757) 253-4838, or visit hif.ciniva.net.

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