Jamestown and the Birth of Black America

  Every American knows the rumours of the founding of the United States of America: the experiences of Captain John Smith, the bravery of Indian princess Pocahoutas, and the founding of the first settlement, Jamestown. Yet the stories of the first African-American origins are buried in almost 400 years of history.
  One day in mid-July 1619, two pirate ships cruising between Cuba and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula saw a Spanish galleon named “San Juan Batista” sailing slowly. In the hope that the ship might be loaded with gold and silver treasures, the two pirate ships named “White Lion” and “Treasure Holder” began to pursue, and finally blocked the Spanish sailing ship in the Bay of Campeche. After several hours of firefights, the Spanish captain decided to surrender. The pirates boarded the sailboat and found that the cabin contained no treasure at all, but a boat of African slaves from Rwanda and Angola, which was originally bound for Vola Cruz, Mexico.
  The 350 black Africans on board — men, women and children — were all four months ago when a Portuguese army looking for silver and their African accomplices invaded the Ndongo tribe on the banks of the River Quango in north-central Angola. arrested. The Ndongo tribe, speaking the Bantu language, was one of several more advanced “Iron Age” tribes in Angola at that time, and the tribe was prosperous, with people from various trades such as artisans, farmers and cattle herders. Angolans believe in Christianity and maintain trade with Europe. Some of the blacks on the San Juan Batista were second and third generation Christians, many of whom took their names from Latin words like Antonio, Maria, Isabel and Francisco.
  The captains of the pirate ships “White Lion” and “Treasure Holder” selected 60 healthy men, women and children from the “San Juan Batista” and shipped them to Jamestown, New England – A British immigrant settlement in desperate need of labour. According to Pocahontas’ husband, John Rolfe, the pirate ship reached the Chesapeake in late August. Thirty-two of the black people on board (17 men and 15 women) were bought by Jamestown residents.
  After leaving Jamestown, the two pirate ships sailed for Bermuda. The pirates sold the remaining blacks there. Over the next four years, six or seven of these blacks returned to Jamestown. The names of blacks trafficked to Jamestown on the “San Juan Badista” first appeared in the Jamestown Demographic Yearbook in 1625.
  The blacks, trafficked from a prosperous country of 250,000 inhabitants, were appalled by the harsh and cramped living space they found in Jamestown. The first blacks to arrive in Jamestown were sent off the boat to several tobacco plantations along the James River. Their main job is to grow and harvest tobacco. Historical records show that these slaves worked as cattle raising and salesmen, selling produce to local Indians and European ships arriving in Jamestown.
  In the following 20 years, some blacks were allowed to grow crops and raise cattle themselves, using their income to “redeem” their personal freedom. Some were also married, and the spouses were either fellow countrymen who came with them, or settlers from England. From 1640 to 1650, many black family members owned their own farms in the Jamestown area.
  Slavery was not fully formed in Virginia until 1705, and the state of freedom made the society appear more prosperous. Some black families even hired white laborers to grow tobacco in Virginia around 1650. A few families, like the Johnsons, were fairly wealthy by the settlement’s standards at the time, although other compatriots on the same ship remained slaves. The settlement of Jamestown became the birthplace of two types of African-Americans — free men and slaves. As the years went by, John Glowell became a respected bailiff in the Jamestown courtroom, Margaret Cornish married the son of a member of the Jamestown Legislature, and John Par Dro became a member of the local militia.
  By 1691, however, Jamestown outlawed freed slaves unless their owners drove them out of the settlement. In 1705, the local legislature refused to allow slaves to grow crops and raise cattle in exchange for their freedom. Those descendants of the first blacks from the San Juan Batista were disenfranchised in many ways. In less than a century, the dawn of hope faded from memory and the long dark night of slavery began.

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