In preparation of statewide and national commemorations of the 400th anniversary of the 1619 arrival of the first Africans at Point Comfort in Hampton, VA, the Hampton History Museum has added a series of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), and a report “1619: Virginia’s First Africans” based on known primary sources, to their website www.hamptonhistorymuseum.org/1619.
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.
This document 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.
“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
“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
The FAQs and report expand on information presented in the museum’s exhibit “1619: Arrival of the First Africans” located in the ship’s hold in the Hampton History Galleries.
The Hampton History Museum is located at 120 Old Hampton Lane in Downtown Hampton. For more information visit www.hamptonhistorymuseum.org or call 757-727-1102.