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W&M helping sponsor ‘Making of America’ conference at Norfolk State

  • When did we become Americans?
    When did we become Americans?  That's one of many issues that will be explored during this two-day conference at Norfolk State.  Courtesy Norfolk State University
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The College of William & Mary Middle Passage Project 1619 Initiative and the Lemon Project, Norfolk State University, the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the Nottoway Indian tribe of Virginia announce “1619: The Making of America,” a two-day conference to be held at NSU’s New Student Center on Sept. 21-22, 2012.

The conference, which includes continental breakfast and lunch, carries a $35 pre-registration cost, $25 pre-registration cost for students with a valid I.D., and $40 at the door. It is open to the public, and registration can be handled by going to

Students from William and Mary have the opportunity to participate in the conference as part of a one-credit course, taught jointly by W&M Professors Jody Allen and Joanne Braxton and NSU’s Cassandra Newby-Alexander, each of whom will also chair sessions at the conference individually.

The course originates in Africana Studies, as AFST 306 and can be taken as a cross-listed registration in other programs and departments, including History and Interdisciplinary Studies. The Middle Passage Project is offering three scholarships.

Students will participate in roundtable discussions and attend lectures by a group of eminent scholars who will use their expertise to summarize and illuminate how American society was transformed beginning in 1619. To earn the credit, students will be required to attend both days of the conference, submit a paper engaging two or more of the sessions and three or more of the assigned readings, and a two-page annotated bibliography.Professor Joanne Braxton (R) with Nottoway Indians Chief Lynette Allston

“This conference marks the start of a collaborative effort to lay the groundwork for national dialogues and reinterpretation of major issues that began in 1619,” Professor Cassandra Newby-Alexander of Norfolk State University said. “Three events marked a significant transformation for the history of the nation 12 years after the founding of Jamestown: The first official arrival of Africans to colonial America; the founding of America’s first legislative body, the House of Burgesses; and the establishment of a viable economy based on tobacco. “A year later, white women arrived in the colony, triggering the perception that the British were here to stay, thus creating a self-generating population. This marked the departure from a fort to a colony.” 

W&M Professors Jody Allen and Joanne Braxton and NSU’s Newby-Alexander will also chair sessions at the conference individually.

“1619: The Making of America,” will address the questions: When did we become Americans? Presentations will be made by national experts Linda Heywood and John Thornton, professors of History at Boston University; Ben Vinson II, professor of Latin American History and former director for the Center of Africana Studies at Johns Hopkins University; Peter Wallenstein, professor of History at Virginia Tech University; and Karenne Wood, director of Virginia Indians Programs at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.Professors Jody Allen and Joanne Braxton

The conference, while scholarly, will have spiritual and artistic elements, including a ritual of remembrance combining African and Native American Indian elements.

“This is a truly exciting multi-disciplinary collaboration across historical institutional boundaries,” Braxton notes.

William and Mary students seeking credit can obtain more information by contacting Kathy O’Brien at the Africana Studies Program office or