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Historical Marker of the arrival of the First documented Africans in 1619. Port Comfort, Present-Day Hampton VA
To become the Epicenter of the Juneteenth FreedomFest in the Hampton Roads area with special attention afforded to African American Heritage, Community Relations, and Entrepreneurship opportunities.
For many of us, Hampton Roads is our home. This brief article will detail some historical facts that many, like myself, did not know. The significance that Hampton Roads played in our shared history is of great magnitude. This article highlights historical information on the roles that our ancestors played in America. Juneteenth is celebrated throughout communities across the United States because it commemorates the end of this barbaric period for enslaved people. The ideals of the “Two Original Sins” are also ingrained in American history. According to Wallis, “America was built upon the genocide of one race while simultaneously enslaving another.” (Wallis, 2007) The legacy of America is rooted deeply here in Hampton Roads and is unequivocally linked to current-day Black America that shares into those ties that bind.
Note: The amount of factual content that encompasses the slave ancestry in American history, culture, and influence is unimaginably massive. Its history is as deep as the Marianas Trench, too intense to effectively digest or capture on this site alone. We hope that our 757 initiative will ignite an exploration of your very own: ‘the quest of uncovering what was covered.’
EDUCATE – ELEVATE – EMPOWER
In 1619, the first "documented" slaves arrived at Point Comfort, which is present-day Fort Monroe, Hampton. According to many historical documents, “20 & Odd” signified the number of slaves that were seized from the Portuguese Slave ship, the San Juan Bautista, and delivered by “American” pirate ships. The term used for PIRATE ships was known at that time as “privateers.” The San Juan Bautista was intercepted in the Gulf of Mexico by TWO privateer (pirate) ships, the White Lion, and the Treasurer. This single event was NOT the beginning of slavery in the Americas and in the Caribbean. The Spanish and the Portuguese nations had been transporting slaves for centuries prior to the documented arrival of 1619. The Atlantic ocean offered the privateer ships an excellent opportunity to seize cargo from foreign ships in its waterways. It was the White Lion that reached the shores of Hampton Roads first with the '20 and odd' captured slaves. Keep in mind that in those days, piracy was legal. This action was legal because the pirates or privateers had attained permission to operate. The permission to operate came in the form of a “commission” or decree that was granted by a governing authority. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, ‘the definition of a privateer was a pirate with papers.” (Encyclopedia Britannica). So thus, began the first trade of enslaved black people onto the very docks of Hampton Roads.
To read more about the arrival of the first documented slaves in 1619, review our reference list below:
THE DNA OF HAMPTON ROADS: from SHIRES to CITIES
Hampton Roads was comprised of several municipalities. All, at some point, were part of another. At its beginning, the colonies were under the Royal Charter, and its original areas were called “shires.” Through the evolution of time and economic growth, those Shires became “citte’s,” “counties,” and eventually “cities” that we know today. The original Eight (8) Shires that formed in 1619-1634 were: Elizabeth City Shire | Accomac Shire | Charles River Shire | Charles City Shire (Hopewell) | Henrico Shire | James City Shire | Warwick River Shire | Warrosquyoake Shire
***This is the “Original” line up of what would later become known as Hampton Roads***
- Jamestown 1607 - Middle Plantation 1632 – Currently Williamsburg
- Kecoughtan 1610 - Charles River Shire 1634 – Currently Yorktown
- James Citte 1619 - Warwick River Shire 1634– Currently Newport News
- Elizabeth Citte 1619 -Elizabeth River Shire 1634–Transitioned into Elizabeth City County in 1643 - Currently Hampton
**Special Note: The Elizabeth River Shire’s initial borders expanded on the Peninsula AND present-day Southside. Its territorial lines spanned across the waters that separate Norfolk and Hampton today.
- Warrosquyoake 1634– Currently Isle of Wight
- New Norfolk 1636 – Initially included all areas of South Hampton Roads. Those areas are now five (5) independent cities (Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach)
- Lower Norfolk County 1637 – City of Norfolk
- Upper Norfolk 1637 -1646 – Transitioned into Nansemond County
- Nansemond County 1646 – Currently City of Suffolk
- Princess Anne County 1691 – City of Virginia Beach
**Portsmouth/Chesapeake did not exist in the original line up. However, the City of Portsmouth became a county of Norfolk in 1782, and in 1858, it became an independent city. The City of Chesapeake was also a part of Norfolk County and became its own independent city in 1963.
THE CIVIL WAR THAT LED TO EMANCIPATION | “JUNETEENTH.”
The Civil War of 1861-1865 is a time in our history that defines the very soul of America. This war pitted one against another and brother against brother. It even caused present-day West Virginia to separate from Virginia to become a separate state that supported the North. The economic wealth that slaves provided to their masters AND the overall wealth of the United States GDP (Gross Domestic Product) was colossal. Slave labor enabled MILLIONS of pounds of Cotton, Tobacco, Indigo, Flour, and Sugar to elevate the United States into one of the most powerful nations on Earth. At the end of the Civil War, President Lincoln released the Proclamation of Emancipation that declared all slaves were “free.” This proclamation is the sole reason for the Juneteenth celebrations. The primitive focus for the FreedomFest is to build from these events that happened long ago. The Festival spotlights our ancestral heritage that allows us to learn together, share sorrows and joys together, all while building healthier communities and relationships for future generations.
Visit the actual Port Comfort, present-day Fort Monroe!
Visit the Hampton University Museum for the ultimate historical experience.
Visit the ONLY memorial in the South commemorating Black Union Soldiers.
Built in 1772 and was a critical part of the Underground RailRoad
Known to Locals as "Harriet Tubman's Highway" Pamplet Below:
Courtesey of 13Newsnow
Courtesey of PBS
"The Original Sin in the founding of America was twofold. America was built by the labor of enslaved people, both Indigenous and Africans." Built on stolen lands, a great nation was built upon the backs of those captured, dehumanized, and sold into chattel slavery. Courtesy of BBC.com