‘1619: Arrival of the First Africans’ Pop-up Exhibits Available to the Public from the Hampton History Museum

January 30, 2019

In commemoration of the 1619 arrival of the first Africans in English North America, the Hampton History Museum has pop-up versions of its “1619: Arrival of the First Africans” gallery exhibit available for community groups, schools, churches, libraries, events, and other uses free of charge.

Drawing on the latest research, the exhibit will tell the story of the Africans’ home in Angola, how they came to be enslaved aboard a Spanish slave ship San Juan Bautista, the terrible 10,000 nautical mile voyage that brought them to Virginia, and their lives on the farms and plantations in the new colony.

In late August 1619 the privateer White Lion arrived off Point Comfort near present day Fort Monroe. Aboard was a captive cargo of “..not any thing but 20. and odd”  Africans “which the Governor and Cape Marchant bought for victualls…” (John Rolfe, 1619. Letter to Sir Edwin Sandys of the Royal Virginia Company). 

These 20 individuals were the first Africans arriving in the new Virginia colony. Their names, given by Portuguese missionaries: Antony, Isabela, William, Angela, Anthony, Frances, Margaret, Anthony, John, Edward, Anthony and others whose names are not yet known.The Virginia colony’s first Africans had lived in the Ndongo Kingdom in Angola in West Central Africa on a lush, green, high plateau 150 miles from the Atlantic. The Portuguese and their mercenary allies, the Imbangala, waged war on the Ndongo kingdom, the most powerful state in the Mbundu region, to gain control of the region and provide slaves for the trade.

The Angolans on the White Lion had been taken from the Spanish slave ship San Juan Bautista. The Captain of the White Lion, John Jope, traded the captured Angolans to the Virginians represented by Governor George Yeardley and his Cape Merchant Abraham Piersey. These were in turn taken into servitude in local homes and plantations.

The exhibit details how the Africans came into the possession of Captain Jope and taken aboard the White Lion, including the politics and piracy that put them in the hands of the Englishmen who had taken them from the Spanish slave trader and diverted them from their original destination of Vera Cruz in Mexico to Virginia.

The travelling exhibits were underwritten by a grant from the National Park Service.

The public can borrow the exhibits free of charge, with the exception of shipping costs for groups out of the area. A reservation form can be found along with other 1619 resources at www.HamptonHistoryMuseum.org/1619.

The Hampton History Museum is located at 120 Old Hampton Lane in Downtown Hampton. There is plenty of free parking in the garage across the street from the museum. For more information, dial 757-727-1102 or visit www.HamptonHistoryMuseum.org.