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.