The Kluge Center’s David B. Larson Fellow in health and spirituality Joanne Braxton will convene a symposium titled, “1619 and The Making of America,” which will bring together respected scholars to explore the intricate encounters of Africans, Europeans and Native people during this significant period in America’s history.
The symposium, in collaboration with the Middle Passage Project of the College of William & Mary and the Virginia Commonwealth’s 2019 Commemoration, will be held at 2 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 23,in the Thomas Jefferson Building, room 119, located at 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. Tickets are not required for this event, which is free and open to the public.
The half-day Kluge Center event will also feature a display of treasures and historical items from the Library of Congress’ collections related to the early Americas.
In 1619, a Dutch ship with about 20 Africans on board entered a port at the English colony of Jamestown, Virginia. This event is known as the arrival of the first recorded Africans to English North America. Their historic arrival, however, marked the beginning of a trend in colonial America, in which the people of Africa were taken from their motherland and consigned to lifelong slavery.
During this time in Jamestown, the first elected legislative assembly in the New World – the House of Burgesses – convened in the choir of the town’s church. Laws passed during its first six-day session included prohibitions against gambling, drunkenness and idleness, and a measure that made Sabbath observance mandatory.
From 1619 to 1650, during the life-span of the first arriving Africans, racial discrimination emerged and chattel slavery would be codified into law. The symposium will ask questions related to the historical importance of these events in 1619. For example, who were the Africans who arrived in Virginia in 1619, where did they come from, what world did they bring with them? What emerged from Africans’ engagement with indigenous Native American populations and their spiritual and cultural life-ways, and what is the enduring legacy of this encounter today?
- Joanne M. Braxton, 2015 David M. Larson Fellow in spirituality and health at the John W. Kluge Center and the director of the Middle Passage Project at the College of William & Mary.
- Robert Trent Vinson, Frances L. and Edwin L Cummings professor at the College of William & Mary.
- Cassandra Newby-Alexander, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and director of the Joseph Jenkins Roberts Center for African Diaspora Studies at Norfolk State University and Co-Chair of Virginia’s 2019 Commemoration’s First Africans to English North America committee.
- Lynette Lewis Allston, chief and Tribal Council chair of the Nottoway Indian Tribe of Virginia, one of 11 officially recognized by the Commonwealth.
The Library of Congress established the Kluge Center in 2000 through a generous endowment from John W. Kluge, an American entrepreneur and philanthropist. For more information about the center, visit loc.gov/kluge/.
The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States—and extensive materials from around the world—both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov; access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov; and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.
Founded in 1995, the Middle Passage Project explores the history and memory surrounding the transatlantic slave trade, its resounding effects on Africans in the Americas and its representation in literature and the humanities, art and history.