The first Africans arrived in mainland English North America in 1619. Originally taken from Angola, they were stolen from a slave ship in the Gulf of Mexico by two English privateers. The English ships, the White Lion and the Treasurer, brought them to Virginia where 20 to 30 were “bought for victuals.” In 1625, one of the first Africans, a woman named “Angelo” (Angela), was listed in a colony-wide census as living in the household of Captain William Pierce of New Towne, a well-connected and wealthy planter-merchant.
Today the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation, in partnership with the National Park Service, is excavating Pierce’s property to learn more about Angela’s world. The goal of the project is to visualize the physical and cultural landscape where Angela lived and worked. The team is looking for evidence of Pierce’s house, outbuildings, and gardens as well as artifacts that can shed light on the household’s activities, diet, and structure. Angela would not have arrived with many, if any, personal possessions, so recovering African artifacts is unlikely. However her presence can still be understood through more subtle clues in the archaeological record shedding light on the intersection of English and Angolan cultures. The project began in 2017 and will continue at least through 2019.