William & Mary

Upcoming Kluge Center Symposium features W&M scholars

  • Speaking at the Library of Congress
    Speaking at the Library of Congress  Robert Trent Vinson, William & Mary’s Frances L. and Edwin L. Cummings Associate Professor of History and Africana Studies, is participating in a symposium titled 1619 and The Making of America on Feb. 23 at the Library of Congress’ Thomas Jefferson Building.  
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Three scholars with William & Mary ties will be the featured speakers on Feb. 23 at the Library of Congress’ Thomas Jefferson Building in a symposium titled “1619 and The Making of America.”

Thomas Jefferson Award 2018 honoree Joanne Braxton, the Kluge Center’s David B. Larson Fellow in Health and Spirituality, will convene the symposium at 2 p.m. in room 119, located at 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. Tickets are not required, and the event is free and open to the public.

Joining Braxton, the Francis L. and Edwin L. Cummings Professor of the Humanities and director of the W&M Middle Passage Project, as featured speakers are Robert Trent Vinson, William & Mary’s Frances L. and Edwin L. Cummings Associate Professor of History and Africana Studies, and Cassandra Newby-Alexander ’92, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and director of the Joseph Jenkins Roberts Center for African Diaspora Studies at Norfolk State University.Cassandra Newby-Alexander Ph.D. '92

The program is part of an ongoing collaboration between W&M and Norfolk State University, where Newby-Alexander also serves as co-chair of Virginia’s 2019 Commemoration’s First Africans to English North America committee.

The symposium is in collaboration with the Middle Passage Project at William & Mary and Virginia’s 2019 Commemoration of the First Africans to English North America. The half-day Kluge Center event will also feature a display of treasures and historical items from the Library of Congress’ collections related to the early Americas.

Founded in 1995, the Middle Passage Project explores the history and memory surrounding the transatlantic slave trade, its resounding effects on Africans in the Americas and its representation in literature and the humanities, art and history. In 2014 the Middle Passage Project formally became a part of the William & Mary Africana Studies Program.

Virginia’s 2019 commemoration, American Evolution, is focused on the 400th anniversary of key historical events that occurred in Virginia in 1619 that continue to influence American democracy, diversity and opportunity.

The goal of this Kluge Center program is to promote historical accessibility to the meaning of 1619 and lay the groundwork for a national dialogue and renewed understanding of major events that began 400 years ago and shaped American history.

In 1619, a Dutch ship with about 20 Africans on board entered a port at the English colony of Jamestown, Virginia. This event is known as the arrival of the first recorded Africans to English North America. Their arrival, however, marked the beginning of a trend in colonial America, historians say, in which the people of Africa were taken from their motherland and consigned to lifelong slavery.

From 1619 to 1650, during the life span of the first arriving Africans, racial discrimination emerged and chattel slavery would be codified into law. The symposium will ask questions related to the historical importance of these events in 1619. Among them: Who were the Africans who arrived in Virginia in 1619? Where did they come from? What world did they bring with them? What emerged from Africans’ engagement with indigenous Native American populations and their spiritual and cultural lives, and what is the enduring legacy of this encounter today?