While the early days of Jamestown were marred with struggle, conflict, and tragedy, the settlement would survive as the first permanent English colony in North America, from which the seeds of the United States grew.
Unearth the tumultuous first century of Jamestown with Mark Summers, the public historian for the Jamestown Rediscovery archaeological project.
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January 23 The Powhatan and the English: 1607–1618
After several failed attempts to colonize North America, the English in 1606 formed the Virginia Company of London and soon after arriving in North America, selected a strategic site for a fort. While idyllic to the English, the chosen land was unoccupied but not unclaimed. The period of conflict with the Powhatan that followed would echo across the continent for centuries.
January 30 The First Africans: 1619–1662
In 1619 the English were confident in the success of Jamestown. Tobacco was booming, and hundreds of new English settlers were arriving each year. In that same year, the first documented Africans were forcibly captured and brought to Virginia to work the tobacco fields. This would begin a long and complicated history of race in America.
February 6 Inevitable Uprising: 1622–1646
In 1622, the short-lived peace between the English and Powhatan Indians since the marriage of Pocahontas and John Rolfe ended. Hundreds of Powhatan warriors launched a simultaneous attack against scattered English settlements, killing nearly one-quarter of the settlers. To the Powhatan, this uprising was a response to decades of violence and the loss of their land and culture since the English colony was established. The era of turmoil would come to an end with the decline of the Powhatan Chiefdom, making Powhatan Indians subjects of the English.
February 13 Bacon’s Rebellion: 1675–1699
What began as a power struggle between two leaders, Sir William Berkeley and Nathanial Bacon, on the push to drive Native Americans from Virginia ended with the former capital of the Colony of Virginia set ablaze by the rebel Bacon. The events that ensued before and after the burning of Jamestown are some of the most complicated yet intriguing chapters in its history, setting the precedent for America’s journey to independence.
Photo caption (upper right): Jamestown 1620s by Keith Rocco (National Park Service)
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