History : Jul-Aug 2019
88 JULY/AUGUST 2019 It is through the markings carved into pipes and other material objects, mostly found through archaeological investigations, that historians are given a glimpse into the Afri- cans’ personal lives. Their religion, ethnicity, and culture survived the Middle Passage and took hold in the colonies. The first Africans in Virginia were followed by more than 400,000 people captured and brought directly from West and central Africa to the North American slave ports, from New England to New Orleans. Writ- ten records are mostly limited to names, sex, and monetary value, and occasionally occupation; more-detailed descriptions typically are found only in advertisements about runaway slaves. This leaves historians with a limited amount of information, and as such, a heavy reliance on archaeological data and oral tradition. Dark Legacy While slavery existed for millennia in other cultures around the world before 1619, it trans- formed significantly in the Americas. Tradition- al African slavery was vastly different from what FIRST FAMILY By 1624, two of the 1619 arrivals, “Anthony” and “Isabella,” were parents of “William,” the first documented African-American born in Virginia. Their son took the last name Tucker, as was commonplace, from his enslaver. Many of their descendants remained in the Tidewater region of Virginia. Some are buried in the family cemetery (right) cared for by the William Tucker 1624 Society. AMY BRIGGS with Catholic rites. Archaeologists working at colonial sites have found traces of it in the mate- rial culture; the Kongo cosmogram, a cross-like mark, often with a circle encompassing it, can be found carved into objects such as pipes and bowls and into walls and metal throughout the African diaspora. This symbol, often mistaken for a cross, had a double meaning; it could pass as Christian while also performing essential ritual purposes. This symbol was used to pray to and conjure the African ancestors for protection. PRECIOUS THINGS Cowrie shells (above) were valuable in many West African cultures and used as currency. When found at archaeological sites in the “New World,” they indicate an African presence. ALBUM LOOKING FOR ANGELA S CHOLARS are searching for a woman named Angela, one of the captured Ango- lans to arrive on theTrea- surer in 1619. She was listed as “Angelo” in the 1624 census, liv- ing in Lieutenant William Pierce’s home in Jamestown, along with three white indentured servants. Although her name sounds mas- culine, she is listed as a woman and referred to as both Angelo and Angela. She was born in Angola around 1600, and her name was likely changed by her enslavers. In 2017, archaeologists at Jamestown began excavating her site and found a cowrie shell, which likely belonged to Angela. They believe it represents some- thing important from her African homeland. In West and central Africa, cowrie shells were used as currency, adornment, and in religious practices.