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All February, a daily glance at important local people, places and events
When the first Africans landed at Old Point Comfort in August 1619, they didn't know they were making history. But the "20 and odd Negroes" described by colonist Thomas Rolfe were merely the vanguard of an African wave that would become an indelible part of the American character.
Recently identified as captives from a war in Angola, the first Africans were being held aboard a Portuguese slave ship in the West Indies when it was captured by Dutch and English privateers. Nine went to work in the Jamestown households of the colony's governor and cape merchant, where they most likely served as indentured servants rather than slaves.
Scholars believe these Africans may have been Christians who shared a common homeland and tongue as well as long familiarity with Europeans. They also included women, enabling them to form families, and within a few years many of them were not only free but also owned land.
Mark St. John Erickson