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The Lost Colony: An Enduring Mystery

Evening Program with Book Signing

Tuesday, June 4, 2019 - 6:45 p.m.
Code: 1B0297
John White’s map of the Outer Banks and Roanoke Island, 1585

In 1587, 115 men, women, and children arrived at Roanoke Island on the coast of North Carolina. Chartered by Queen Elizabeth I, their colony was to establish England’s first foothold in the New World. But when in August 1590, the colony’s leader John White returned to Roanoke from a resupply mission to England, his settlers were nowhere to be found.

There were intriguing clues to their whereabouts carved on a tree and a post, including the name of a nearby native village. But no explanation of the fate of the colony and its inhabitants has ever been conclusively developed.

Roanoke is an enigma that has obsessed generations of historians, archaeologists, and amateur sleuths for more than 400 years, becoming a story whose fascination only continues to grow. Over that time, aspects of the mystery have found their way into often-surprising areas of American life. For example, Virginia Dare, the first English child born on the continent, has been co-opted as a symbol for white supremacy since the 1830s.

Journalist Andrew Lawler, author of The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke, and a panel of experts dive into this enduring mystery, and examine how it resonates today.

The Secret Token (Doubleday) is available for sale and signing.

Smithsonian Connections

The 1998 discovery of a signet ring believed to have a link to the Roanoke colony looked to be a clue in the ongoing mystery of its settlers’ disappearance. Andrew Lawler traces how the ring’s status as a presumed treasure unraveled in a report for

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