WILLIAMSBURG, Va., January 24, 2014 – “From Africa to Virginia” is the theme of interpretive programs throughout February at Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Victory Center history museums. The culture of the first known Africans in Virginia and the experience of people of African descent in colonial and Revolutionary America is highlighted in the museums’ gallery exhibits and outdoor living-history areas.
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.
This February marks the debut of a “From Africa to Virginia” one-hour guided tour of the Jamestown Settlement galleries for groups of 15 or more with advance reservations.
Yorktown Victory Center Galleries
The Yorktown Victory Center’s Witnesses to Revolution Gallery profiles 10 individuals who lived during the Revolutionary period, including two African-Americans – Jehu Grant, who served as a teamster in the Continental Army, and Boston King, who escaped from slavery to the British side. Documents on exhibit reflect antislavery sentiment in the American colonies prior to the Revolution. The antislavery movement continued to gain momentum after America won its independence, and a 1795 antislavery medallion also is exhibited in the museum galleries.
“The Legacy of Yorktown: Virginia Beckons” exhibit tells the story of people who shaped Virginia society, from the Powhatan Indians to Europeans and Africans who began arriving in the 1600s. Among those featured in the exhibition are Anthony and Mary Johnson, who arrived in Virginia from Africa in the early 1620s as servants or slaves and became free persons by the 1640s, and Olaudah Equiano, a slave who purchased his freedom in the 1760s.
Outdoor Interpretive Programs
On daily outdoor tours of Jamestown Settlement’s interpretive areas offered every hour from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. February 1-14, and throughout the day February 15-28, Powhatan Indian and Angolan canoe-making technology and fishing methods will be compared at the re-created Powhatan Indian village, and weapons will be compared at the re-created 1610-14 fort. At the museum’s replica 1607 English ships, participants on tours February 1-14 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. The role-play activity will take place at the ships at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. February 15-28.
During February at the Yorktown Victory Center’s re-created Continental Army encampment, 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. The lives and roles of enslaved people on a small farm and African influence on American foodways will be highlighted at the Yorktown Victory Center 1780s farm. Guided tours of the two outdoor areas will be offered hourly from 10:05 a.m. to 4:05 p.m. through February 14.
Visiting the Museums
Combined admission to Jamestown Settlement, located at Route 31 and the Colonial Parkway near Williamsburg, and the Yorktown Victory Center, located at Route 1020 and the Colonial Parkway in Yorktown, is $20.50 for adults, $10.25 for ages 6 through 12. Individual Jamestown Settlement admission is $16.00 for adults, $7.50 for ages 6-12. Yorktown Victory Center admission is $9.75 for adults, $5.50 for ages 6-12. Children under 6 are free, and parking is free at both museums.
The “From Africa to Virginia” guided tour of the Jamestown Settlement galleries for groups of 15 or more with advance reservations is $16.40 for adults, $6.25 for students K-college, and includes admission to the entire museum. Reservations can be made at (888) 868-7593 toll-free or (757) 253-4939.
Jamestown Settlement and the Yorktown Victory Center are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. For more information, call (888) 593-4682 toll-free or (757) 253-4838, or visit hif.ciniva.net.