The 400th anniversary commemoration of the arrival of African captives to Jamestown offers a new generation the opportunity to ask questions never raised by previous generations. 1619 marked the beginnings of English use of African slave labor. However, history and public memory has largely chosen to exclude people of African descent from America’s origin narrative. History often factors the First Africans into the origin story only as a historical footnote, if at all. The material representation of Africans and their descendants is never elevated to the level granted to the English. Their labor contributions have largely remained invisible and under-valued. However, on August 17th, 2019, 1619Fest will pay tribute to the memory of those first Africans who were brought against their will 400 years ago.

1619Fest also aims to reverse the propaganda of disassociating African Americans from Africa. Too often the story of African Americans begins with slavery, at the consequence of the older, African selves being lost. The history of seventeenth century Angola, where the first Africans were taken, is omitted from our history teachings. Key figures of African resistance to colonialism, like Queen Njinga Mbandi, are never mentioned when the global origins of Jamestown are discussed.

Lastly, recognizing that the subjectivity of the memorialization of America’s past and lack of English writing on the nature of early Black life in America has undoubtedly contributed to the unbalanced material representation of African Americans in the origin story, we acknowledge that Archaeology is helping provide that connection to the past. Current excavations, particularly at the “Angela Site”, are providing necessary documentation and critical insight about the conditions and stresses under which the First Africans lived and how they died. While we’ll never know the names of most of the early African Americans, the objectivity of archaeology is helping to shift the origin narrative of Jamestown. As Jamestown evolves, it will result in not only a more accurate framing of America’s past, but play a critical role in shaping it’s present and future as well.

It is the hope of the 1619Fest organizers that Jamestown will continue to evolve and help ignite a willingness to grapple with the implications of slavery, ultimately leading to a path to atonement and help Americans heal the wounds of slavery.

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Live Performance by Akae Beka

Openers - Mighty Joshua, Cultivated Minds


Akae Beka


Mighty Joshua


Cultivated Minds


DJ Keys

Complete Schedule of Activities

9:00am–11:30am (location map)

Commemoration of the Arrival of the First Africans

Our 1619Fest Commemoration Day will begin at Historic Jamestown, standing on the grounds where the headquarters for the Royal African Company once stood, the place where so many Africans were sold into slavery.  Join us as we reflect upon the history and honor the memory of the first Africans who were brought to Jamestown.

9am-10am - Opening prayer and remarks by Rev. Dennis Dillon | Publisher/CEO, The New York Christian Times. Song & Praise Dance led by The Historic First Baptist Church of Williamsburg.

10am-11am - First Africans Walking Tour:
This walking tour of New Towne will focus on the arrival of the first Africans in Virginia in 1619. The tour will delve deep into who these Africans and the beginnings of English use of African slave labor.

11am-11:30am -The tour will conclude at the Angela archaeological site, where the Angela Archaeology Crew will reveal and provide critical insight on recent, major discoveries. Do not miss this opportunity. The story of African Americans at Jamestown goes beyond 1619, as debates over inclusion and exclusion of people of African descent from Jamestown’s historical story and origin narrative are evolving Jamestown and resulting in a framing of America's past, present and future.

A separate $20 entry fee is required to enter Historic Jamestowne to attend the morning commemoration (9am-11:30am). Children (15 & under) are free. At checkout choose from two ticket types, a $30 option that includes admission to all events held at Billsburg Brewery (11:30am-10pm), or a $50 option that also includes admission to Historic Jamestowne. All tickets to Historic Jamestowne are good for seven consecutive days and include admission to Yorktown Battlefield.

Live Event & Activities at the James City County Marina (Billsburg Brewery) - 11:30am-10pm. (Location map

Get Tickets Now - $30 Adults; Free Children 15 & under. Food Options Available. Visit One of Our Food Trucks. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN BEING VENDOR OR FOOD TRUCK, PLEASE FILL THE APPLICATION BELOW.

Vendor Information & Application

Vendor Fair - 11:30am–10:00pm

Live music by FORTRESSES full brass band and Whitney Jackson  (11:30am-1:30pm)

Jamestown Discovery Boat Tours - limited seating, RSVP - tours at 12:30pm, 1:30pm & 2:30pm: Cruise in comfort aboard the Jamestown Discovery, a 28-passenger luxury pontoon boat, as it floats along the shores of the Historic Powhatan Creek and the James River where the first English settlement was established. Enjoy the natural beauty and ecology of the James River. Guests may encounter indigenous wildlife including bald eagles, turtles, marine mammals and more.

Light as a Feather (1pm-1:45p) RSVP: A Restorative Kemetic Yoga & Reiki Experience: 
If you feel called to spend sometime devoted to self-care and experiencing the joy of slowing down and being present in the moment and  in your body, please join us for a rejuvenating yoga practice, infused with Reiki energy.  The intention of this class is to allow for introspection and mindfulness.

Open Mic (1:30pm-3:30pm): 
We welcome ALL expressive art forms, including poets, vocalists, musicians, comedians, storytellers, etc to showcase your talent.

Sounds of Freedom (2:00pm-2:30pm) (Music, Folklore, Dance, Facepaint)
Join Atumpan Edutainment's dynamic duo, Corey the Talented Blind Guy and LaQuita Marie, as they perform Sounds of Freedom. This live performance is will engage adults, teens and children.

PANEL DISCUSSION (2:00pm-3:15pm): We invite you to attend this discussion to learn about human remains of possible African descent discovered on Jamestown Island during previous projects and to share your ideas and questions on future research and interpretation efforts related to African and African American history and culture on Historic Jamestowne. The National Park Service (NPS) is implementing a community process that encourages and seeks community input. They are seeking recommendations from community members which support decisions around respectful remembrance, appropriate study, and reburial with dignity.

Partner Yoga with Shu-Manna (2:30pm-3:15pm) RSVP:
This workshops is open to those who want to mindfully explore movement, breath and connection through co-meditations, basic weight sharing, supportive sequences and mirrored asanas. Learn how to find ease and balance with the support of a partner.

Sounds of Freedom - ENCORE (3:00pm-3:30pm) (Music, Folklore, Dance)Join Atumpan Edutainment's dynamic duo, Corey the Talented Blind Guy and LaQuita Marie, for another performance of Sounds of Freedom. This live performance is will engage adults, teens and children.

Kulu Mele African Dance & Drum Ensemble
3:30pm - 5pm

Kulu Mele will be celebrating their 50th Anniversary at 1619Fest with an extraordinary performance. This amazing show, descended from West African performative traditions, is highly authentic, culturally competent and intended to entertain and inspire audiences of all ages.

Live Reggae Concert featuring Akae Beka
5pm - 10pm

1619Fest will culminate with a live music concert, headlined by the internationally known, one and only, esteemed singer, poet and thinker Akae Beka (Vaughn Benjamin), formerly known as the voice of Midnite. In addition, there will be opening performances by Mighty Joshua and Cultivated Mind!

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