1619: Remembering the Landing of the First Africans in English North America

An exhibit to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Africans in Virginia.

by Kendall Shamus '20 and Jacob Credle '21, Steward Marketing department interns

During the month of September, Steward hosted an exhibit about the first Africans who arrived in Virginia 400 years ago in 1619. The 1619 landing shaped the history of race relations in America, and learning about it provides both historical and modern day context. Drew Thompson '21 and his family brought the exhibit to Steward in collaboration with the Hampton History Museum.

In this exhibit, visitors could see several panels full of information about the arrival of Africans in Virginia, specifically where in Africa they came from and the story of how they were brought to Virginia. 1619 is not only a subject of conversation at Steward, but across the country as well, as The New York Times recently released a special publication also titled “1619” that has generated nationwide interest.

Drew Thompson is the founder of Steward’s chapter of the National History Club and says, "I like history and sharing it with the community." His grandfather is involved in the community in Hampton, which is how he heard about the exhibit and was able to bring it to Steward. The Thompson family also has ties to the Hampton History Museum.

Upper School history teacher Sarah Dwelle emphasized the importance of the exhibit to not only the Steward community, but also Virginia as a whole. "I hope [that by hosting this exhibit] it means that we as a community are willing to look at, address, and talk about the challenging aspects of our history as Virginians...Virginia sometimes has the reputation of being stuck in the past. I think these kinds of exhibits help us to consider honestly where we have been and where we want to go in our future."

Students had the opportunity to see this exhibit inside and outside of history classes. Many students seemed to appreciate getting to immerse themselves in an important part of Virginia's history they might not have been exposed to before. "Steward has a very diverse and accepting community," Emory Sutton '20 said. "This exhibit represents the mistakes that we have made as a society and why it's important to learn from them."

The exhibit made an impression on everyone who experienced it, and the Steward community would like to thank the Thompson family, the Hampton History Museum, and everyone who was involved in helping bring it to our campus.






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