The Evolution of America

Join the party with a visit to where our story began.

Democracy, diversity and opportunity. These themes are at the forefront of the 2019 Commemoration marking 400 years of progress in America — now underway at Colonial Williamsburg, the Jamestown Settlement & American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, Historic Jamestowne (the Historic Triangle).

The “2019 Commemoration, American Evolution” spotlights four historical events that occurred in the colony of Virginia 400 years ago. The first event took place on July 30, 1619, when representatives from Virginia settlements assembled in Jamestown, planting the seeds of democracy. A month later, the arrival of the first Africans in North America was recorded at Point Comfort, Virginia, setting in motion our nation’s struggle for equality. In November, 147 women were recruited to relocate to Jamestown, and on Dec. 4 the settlers of the “Berkeley Hundred” celebrated the first official Thanksgiving in the colonies.

Historic Women

Jamestown Settlement includes interesting exhibits and a film about the arrival of the first English settlers in 1607 and the cultural encounters settlers had with Native Americans and Africans. You’ll also find a re-created fort, a Powhatan village and replicas of the three ships which brought them to America (the Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery). Nearby is the site of the original settlement, administered by the National Park Service and Preservation Virginia.

Explore the personal stories of women who lived in the colony with “Tenacity: Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia,” an exhibit which continues at Jamestown Settlement museum through Jan. 5, 2020. Discover the impact they made on the society of that time and how their struggles connect to women today. A series of programs, including an original play called Mother Tongue by Abigail Schumann, debuts at Jamestown Settlement May 2019, then travels to other Virginia venues.

Epic Battles

America’s story unfolds at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown through more than 500 exhibit items, six different films, a Continental Army encampment and a Revolution-era farm. Three experiences not to be missed are the Siege at Yorktown film, the military encampment and the Diallo portrait.

The decisive Battle of Yorktown ended on Oct. 19, 1781, with General Washington’s army, aided by General Rochambeau’s French troops defeating General Cornwallis’ British army. This epic battle is realistically created on a 180-degree surround screen in the museum’s experiential theater. Smoke, wind, cannon fire and the aroma of gunpowder, seawater and coffee create an authentic experience.

Uniformed soldiers share information about their daily routines and the weapons that were used by the Americans in the American Revolution at the Continental Army encampment (located outside the museum).

The Diallo Portrait, a 12-inch by 14-inch oil-on-canvas work, was painted by English portraitist William Hoare in the 1730s. Now in the museum’s permanent collection, it features Ayuba Suleiman Diallo, a.k.a. Job ben Solomon, an African from Senegal dressed in his native attire. Enslaved for a time in North America, he eventually returned to his home country where he died in 1773. It’s one of the two earliest known portraits done from life of an African who had been enslaved in the British colonies that became the United States.

“Diallo’s visage speaks for the hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans and African Americans who remain largely unknown, yet who constituted a major part of late-colonial America’s population,” says Thomas E. Davidson, former Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation senior curator.

Member Savings: Receive exclusive ticket discounts for Colonial Williamsburg and America’s Historic Triangle when you purchase them at your local AAA Travel office. Call 800-398-0379 for details.

(Go Magazine January/February 2019)

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