Reporting on the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in 1619
August 23, 2019 8:10 AM   Subscribe

Breaking: Something Bad Is Happening in Virginia [Updated]. "To commemorate the quadricentennial anniversary of the arrival of enslaved Africans in America, we imagined what it would be like to cover that late August day when the first slave ship landed on the shores of the place now known as Hampton, Va."

Meet ‘Angela,’ One of the 1st Slaves to Arrive in America
What if we could put names and faces to the Africans who were brought over to America as slaves in 1619? Would it humanize slavery instead of making it a category in American history that people love to conveniently forget or urge black folks to “just get over it”?

The first Africans arrived at Point Comfort, a port on the James River in Virginia, during the latter part of the summer in 1619. Among those slaves, there was a woman historians have named “Angela.” Say her name. Even though Angela’s story is intriguing, it’s still frustrating, if just for her name alone. Angela is certainly a whitewashed name, considering that she came from Africa. It reminds me of Kunta Kente from Roots being forced to take the name Toby. He fought for his identity until he lost limbs. I wonder if Angela resented being called Angela or if she even answered to it?

Angela wasn’t just another faceless African sold into slavery; she was a human being with an entire life to live. And she survived the rough, unpredictable and violent trip to America.
How American Slavery Helped Create Modern-Day Policing
This year marks the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in what we now know as Virginia. Their voyage was, no doubt, filled with unspeakable horror and death, and their presence would forever change the United States—especially when examining the way this country approaches policing.

When enslaved Africans arrived in America, there was certainly a desire to assert control over this specific group of people. By the early 1700s, the first slave patrol emerged in the colony of Carolina.

Be clear: The slave patrol and slave catchers set the tone for policing in the United States as we know it.
Related posts: The 1619 Project

This is not about your comfort

The Right To Bear Arms Against Slave Revolts
posted by homunculus (11 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
Awesome! Bookmarked for later quoting.

And of course, of course, even though it was specifically addressed in the article, the very first comment is that old chestnut, "But, but, but, some Africans were enslaved by other Africans! That makes it OK!" I was glad to see the author step in and smack that nonsense down.

Meet ‘Angela,’ One of the 1st Slaves to Arrive in America
What if we could put names and faces to the Africans who were brought over to America as slaves in 1619? Would it humanize slavery instead of making it a category in American history that people love to conveniently forget or urge black folks to “just get over it”?

I can only speak for myself, but it did indeed make the gut punch harder that I could read the names of the slaves my ancestors mentioned in their wills. What kind of cognitive dissonance does it take to reconcile willing something to Mary in one sentence and in the next sentence turning around and willing Mary herself to someone else? WTF?

As a beneficiary of that system, I figure the very least I owe society is to recognize the truth of it rather than try to pretend it didn't leave scars on our society that persist to this day.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:21 AM on August 23, 2019 [10 favorites]

Another thing to remember about slavery in America is that it was a family affair. Not always, but especially later due to the almost universal practice among slave owning white men of raping slaves a great many enslaved people were the relatives of those who claimed to own them.

All you need to to see the biggest part of the family of a Southern plantation owner was look out the window to the fields where he used torture to coerce his brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, cousins, nieces, and nephews into labor on his behalf.

Some of his children he showered with wealth and power and made his heirs, others he ground into servitude with rape and torture as his tools of choice.
posted by sotonohito at 10:03 AM on August 23, 2019 [18 favorites]

One of the ideas that made this all more real to me was that so many of our historical infrastructure in cities was built by the labor of slaves. Up to and including DC of course. They didn't just work on remote plantations, they built cities and roads and buildings that we consider historical monuments now.

If you include the enslaved Indians, it's not just in the East, either; California and other Western states abused them terribly.

And then if you include prison labor, you realize it hasn't actually stopped.
posted by emjaybee at 10:05 AM on August 23, 2019 [11 favorites]

The mix of "on the scenes" reporting with 2019 snark works way better than I would of thought if somebody had pitched that idea to me.
posted by COD at 11:20 AM on August 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

The greatest failure of the 13th Amendment was that it explicitly permits slavery as a punishment for crime which all but nullifies the rest of it.
posted by sotonohito at 11:34 AM on August 23, 2019 [5 favorites]

It's so hard to conceive of how much time this represents, the time between that first slave ship and now. It's a dizzying amount of time. We were at Jamestown a couple of months ago, and while I felt like I had a pretty good grasp of history, the age of things was hard to get a grasp on. Back when I was in school, the spans of time weren't emphasized, and it was easy to imagine that the Revolutionary War happened just after the settlers arrived, even though the years don't add up that way. And the convenient thing about that is, it lets you think of slavery as this temporary aberration. Just something that happened, a bad thing, but it's okay because we speedily took care of it with the civil war. You're not given a sense of the truth, that slavery (and the racism to justify it) was absolutely foundational to America, as foundational as religion (this ship came in just about 12 years after the first church was built in Jamestown).

I am really glad to read these pieces, especially the one on Angela. Visiting these sites, it's hard to know how to take the information on slavery. Like how the historian Horn is quoted, "Jamestown is about how great whites are," you're always having to ask, is the stuff you're seeing whitewashed, is it propaganda like when you visit a plantation and there's all this emphasis on how nice everybody was. So to know that no, this work that's being done is fully aware of the horror and the need for it to have an emotional impact on visitors, was good to hear.
posted by mittens at 12:04 PM on August 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

Over the years, my education of the TRUE history of America has destroyed whatever White Pride I used to have and replaced it with White Shame. When the Proud Boys Assholes declare "They will not replace us" I want to scream back "Let them replace us! It's the only way this civilization will improve!!"
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:23 PM on August 23, 2019 [5 favorites]

Ric Murphy, if I remember correctly. tells of those first few African captives who arrived in Virginia around <1> as being local royalty from Kabasa Angola. These first few were educated people who later became landowners and who employed indentured servants from western Europe. The descendants of the first few intermarried generation after generation with Europeans with descendants becoming amongst the first families of Virginia. The Slaves Codes of Virginia of 1705 radically changed prospects for Africans brought over from 1705 onward.
posted by millardsarpy at 7:06 AM on August 24, 2019

it was easy to imagine that the Revolutionary War happened just after the settlers arrived

In know, instead of 150 years later. And 246 years from when the slaves were first brought here until emancipation.

From Lincoln's second inaugural address:
Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."
posted by kirkaracha at 5:58 PM on August 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

Spanish explorers brought 100 slaves to a doomed settlement in South Carolina or Georgia. Within weeks, the subjugated revolted, then vanished. Before 1619, there was 1526: The mystery of the first enslaved Africans in what became the United States (WaPo)

Everyone is talking about 1619. But that’s not actually when slavery in America started. (WaPo)
There is a tendency of many people who write the history of America to have a view of the world centered on Jamestown and the Anglo American experience. When history fixates on the 13 original American colonies, the rest of the map, including Florida, seems to fall away. But it’s worth expanding that picture to include Spanish-occupied territory in what is now the United States.

When we consider those lands, we see that slavery actually dates back a full century before 1619. Slavery in Florida reveals how a multinational slave trade built on personal greed and white supremacy forced Africans and African Americans to build North American wealth in which they would not be able to share. Then, adding insult to injury, these early black slaves were erased from the standard narrative of American history.
posted by peeedro at 7:13 AM on September 8, 2019 [5 favorites]

Wow, peeedro, that's farcinating!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:03 AM on September 8, 2019

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