400 years ago, the first Africans of British North America arrived in Virginia

Painting of the arrival of the first Africans arriving in Virginia (Courtesy of Sidney E. King)

This year is a milestone in American history.

It was in August 1619 that the first Africans arrived at the Jamestown Colony, now known as Virginia. And as Virginia is considered the birthplace of America, so, too, for African America.

In the Hampton Roads area, they're commemorating 400 years this August to recognize the arrival of the first Africans in in British North America.

While at Jamestown, Virginia, there are replicas of those ships that brought the English in 1607, there are no such replicas 35 miles down the James River for the pirate ships that brought the first Africans 12 years later to Hampton, Virginia.

They were from Angola in West Africa, where they were enslaved by the Portuguese. They were transporting them to Mexico to work in the mines except two British pirate ships caught and raided the Portuguese vessel, selling their loot, the Angolans, in exchange for food at Hampton.

In the Hampton-Jamestown area, they are preparing for a commemoration weekend this August of 400 years of Africans in British America – a visitors’ pavilion is being constructed at Fort Monroe by the National Park Service and an archaeological dig is taking place at Jamestown into the life of Angelo, an Angolan woman listed in documents the museum borrowed from Britain.

“Our job is to make sure everyone understands that African American history starts here," archaeologist David Givens said.

At a Jamestown museum, an Angolan village is featured at a Hampton museum, the route the first Africans traveled is traced, including the battle with the Portuguese where they lost their freedom.

D.C. bureau chief Sam Ford has more in the video above.

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