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Museum releases new report on arrival of first Africans at Point Comfort in 1619

December 20, 2018 |

The Hampton History Museum has prepared a new report detailing the arrival almost 400 years ago of a small group of Africans at Point Comfort in Hampton.  The report, "1619: Virginia's First Africans," tells how the Africans came to be aboard the English privateer ship that landed at Point Comfort - they were the first recorded Africans to arrive in England's mainland colonies - and the role their arrival played in the future of America.

The 400th anniversary of the 1619 arrival will be celebrated locally, statewide and nationally this August.

The museum already has a special exhibit highlighting the arrival. According to the museum: "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."

Museum Director Luci Cochran said: "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."
The report was prepared by museum historian Beth Austin. Along with several frequently asked questions and other information, it can be found at www.hamptonhistorymuseum.org/1619. You can also go online to learn more about the 1619 commemoration that will be held in Hampton Aug. 19-21.