Reflects on 400th anniversary of first documented Africans in Virginia

To the Editor:

In August 1619, the first documented Africans arrived in the English colony of Virginia.

The group, recorded upon arrival as “20 and odd Negroes,” was part of a larger group of West Africans enslaved by Portuguese slavetraders.

They were on their way to Vera Cruz aboard a Portuguese ship when they were captured off the coast of Mexico by the White Lion, an English warship flying a Dutch flag and operating under Dutch letters of marque.

The White Lion transported them to Virgniia, where they were put ashore at Old Point Confort, in what is now Hampton, Va., and sold as involuntary laborers or indentured servants.

Africans were informed they would work under contract for a certain period of time before being granted freedom and the rights afforded other settlers.

White indentured servants were listed along with their year of expected freedom, whereas no such year accompanied the names of the African indentured servants.

The historic arrival of the group of “20 and odd Negroes” marked the beginning of the trend in Colonial America where people of Africa were taken unwillingly from their homeland, transplanted and committed to lifelong slavery and racial discrimination.

Last month marked the 400 years since the first arrival of Africans to present day America.

There is an interest in commemorating the contributions that Americans of African decent have made to help shape the cultural, academic, social, economic and moral attributes of this nation.

A federal 400 Years of African-American History Commission would mark this historic heritage.

Fran Smith

New Milford