In late August of 1619, the first slave ship arrived at Point Comfort carrying MORE THAN 20 ENSLAVES AFRICANS TO HAMPTON, VIRGINIA. From that perilous voyage, their presence has had a profound impact on Hampton, Virginia’s culture and society past and today.
The history of Virginia’s first Africans
VIRGINIA’S FIRST AFRICANS arrived at Point Comfort, on the James River, late in August 1619. There, “20 and odd Negroes” or more from the English ship White Lion were sold in exchange for food and some were transported to Jamestown, where they were sold again. Three or four days later another English ship, the Treasurer, arrived in Virginia, where its captain sold two or three additional Africans.
Historians have long believed these Africans to have come to Virginia from the Caribbean, but Spanish records suggest they had been captured in a Spanish-controlled area of West Central Africa. They probably were Kimbundu-speaking people, and many of them may have had at least some knowledge of Catholicism. While aboard the São João Bautista bound for Mexico, they were stolen by the White Lion and the Treasurer.
Once in Virginia, they were dispersed throughout the colony. The number of Africans in Virginia increased to thirty-two by 1620, but then dropped sharply by 1624, likely because of the effects of disease and perhaps because of the Second Anglo-Powhatan War (1622–1632). Evidence suggests that many were baptized and took Christian names, and some, like Anthony and Mary Johnson, won their freedom and bought land. In 1628, after a shipload of about 100 Angolans was sold in Virginia, the number of Africans in the colony rose dramatically.
Virginia in today
The first Africans’s history and culture now have a big influence on the Hampton area. So, you can easily spend a few days here to visit a variety of attractions including museums, historic sites, beaches, wildlife refuges, shopping, and dining.
Visit the Hampton History Museum
The Hampton History Museum chronicles life in America through the story of this city from early Native American culture to man’s reach into space. Ten galleries share the personal stories of explorers, pirates, and men and women working along the Chesapeake Bay, and illustrate profound changes to our nation.
Hampton’s history includes dramatic moments on the world stage including the enslaved Africans in 1619, War of 1812, and the American Civil War, as well as pivotal events in our culture – such as the “Contraband Decision,” the first step toward freedom for millions of African Americans held in slavery.
Visit the Hampton University Museum
Hampton University, founded in 1868, is a short walk from downtown. The museum is a surprising gem. The campus is home to the oldest African American museum in the U.S. and maintains a collection of more than 1,200 cultural artifacts and traditional and contemporary works of art.
“America was not built for black people, it was built by back people. We have no roots in these trees, only our blood on the leaves.”