Jamestown National Historic Site

Historical Significance

The Jamestown fort was built in 1607. A circa 1619 letter written by colonist John Rolfe stated that "20. and odd Negroes" were brought to Point Comfort aboard a Dutch man-of-war whose crew had captured them from the Spanish. This is thought to be the beginning of black life in America.

The experience of African Americans in 17th century Virginia is described in an exhibit at the nearby "Jamestown Settlement" titled: "A Culture Apart." The first documented Africans in British North America arrived at Jamestown after landing at Point Comfort in 1619.

Artifacts on exhibit include a 17th century African crucifix from Zaire, a map by Abraham Ortelius showing the kingdoms and states of Africa in 1570, and a 1600 English translation of "A Geographical Historie of Africa" from the original Arabic text by African scholar John Leo.

While early African arrivals may have been indentured servants, lifetime servitude for most Africans had become established in the colony by mid-century. The existence of indentured servitude, and eventually slavery, in Virginia was closely tied to the colony's need for labor to cultivate tobacco, its most important cash crop. 

Physical Description

No Physical Description Available

Geographical and Contact Information

1368 Colonial Parkway
Jamestown, Virginia

Cite this Page:

Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, “Jamestown National Historic Site,” African American Historic Sites Database, accessed April 21, 2019, http://aahistoricsitesva.org/items/show/223.


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