The 1619 Landing — Virginia's First Africans Report & FAQs
In late August, 1619, 20-30 enslaved Africans landed at Point Comfort, today's Fort Monroe in Hampton, Va., aboard the English privateer ship White Lion. In Virginia, these Africans were traded in exchange for supplies. Several days later, a second ship (Treasurer) arrived in Virginia with additional enslaved Africans. Both groups had been captured by English privateers from the Spanish slave ship San Juan Bautista. They are the first recorded Africans to arrive in England's mainland American colonies.
The landing of the first Africans in Virginia is one of the most significant events we interpret. Although English colonists in Virginia did not invent slavery, and the transition from a handful of bound African laborers to a legalized system of full-blown chattel slavery took many decades, 1619 marks the beginning of race-based bondage that defined the African American experience.
Hampton's status as the location for the first landing is a double-edged sword. We are uniquely positioned to tell a powerful story, but it is a challenging narrative fraught with controversy, myth, and contradictions that strike at the heart of the intersection between American slavery and American freedom.
If for no other reason, it is important we have a conversation about what took place at Point Comfort in 1619 because it forever changed the course of the country. The legacy of this event affects us all and understanding this complex history and legacy helps us to come together as Americans.
~ Luci Cochran, Executive Director, Hampton History Museum
~ Photo credit: 1619 exhibit in the Hampton History Galleries. Photo courtesy of the Hampton Convention and Visitor Bureau.
400 Years Forward
In Hampton, we are looking forward. Forward to the next 400 years of honoring our history, culture and future. Join us in 2021 for 400 Years Forward African American heritage programs, tours and events. Learn more about 400 Years Forward.
1619 First Africans Research Report
This report aims to provide a clear, comprehensive overview of what facts are available, what scholars believe and why, and what remains unknown. This report brings together surviving documents and the latest scholarly research in one place for everyone to use.
- Download the 1619 First Africans Research Report (PDF)
I wanted to say that this was an incredible job that all of you did with this document. It is light years ahead of what has been done so far.
-- Cassandra L. Newby-Alexander, Ph.D., Professor of History; Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Director, Joseph Jenkins Roberts Center for African Diaspora Studies, Norfolk State University
An orderly West African village illustrating the villagers’ skill at growing such crops as cotton and corn and keeping cattle. This illustration appeared in A New General Collection of Voyages and Travels, edited by Thomas Ashley and published in London between 1745 and 1747. Courtesy of slaveryimages.org.
The Ndongo Kingdom’s Queen Nzinga seated on a ceremonial chair and smoking a pipe while she and her maid servants enjoy the drumming of a musician. Water color by Giovannni Cavazzi archived in a private collection in Modena, Italy. Courtesy of slaveryimages.org.
"A chain of slaves traveling from the interior." Armed guards oversee six African captives' forced march to a slave port. During the march the captives' neck braces were never removed. Illustration courtesy of the Library of Virginia.
Tobacconist William Gribble used this 17th century tobacco wrapper to package his "best Virginia tobacco" in the bustling port town of Barnstaple, England. The wrapper reflected the demand for high quality Virginia tobacco in European markets. It also reflected an Englishman's concept of the Virginia colony's African field workers as savages rather than as a skilled agriculturalist with their own cultural heritage. Courtesy Special Collections, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.