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.
Between 2017 and 2019, the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation, in partnership with the National Park Service, excavated Pierce’s property to learn more about Angela’s world. The goal of the project was to visualize the physical and cultural landscape where Angela lived and worked. The team looked for evidence of Pierce’s house, outbuildings, and gardens as well as artifacts that could 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 was unlikely. However, Angela’s presence can still be understood through more subtle clues in the archaeological record, shedding light on the intersection of English and Angolan cultures. Laboratory analysis of finds is still ongoing.