African American Cultural Heritage
Exhibits & Films at Jamestown Settlement & American Revolution Museum at Yorktown
Throughout the year, visitors to Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown can explore gallery exhibits, films and educational programs that recount the experiences of Africans and African Americans in early America, from the first recorded West Central Africans in Virginia in 1619 to the role of African Americans in the Revolutionary War.
Jamestown Settlement’s permanent exhibition galleries feature one of the most varied collections of objects relating to the nation’s beginnings in 17th-century Virginia, including more than 500 objects representative of the Powhatan Indian, European and West Central African cultures. The documentary film, “1607: A Nation Takes Root,” shown every 30 minutes in the museum theater, traces the evolution of the Virginia Company that sponsored the Jamestown colony, examines the relationship between the English colonists and the Powhatan Indians, and chronicles the arrival of the first recorded West Central Africans in 1619.
Exhibition galleries feature a variety of artifacts that reflect West Central African history and culture. The skills of West and West Central African craftsman as well as African contact with Europeans is reflected in a pair of Edo copper alloy bracelets whose decorations include stylized images of Portuguese soldiers, and an Owo carved ivory bracelet, an example of an object highly valued by European collectors.
The dramatic multimedia presentation, “From Africa to Virginia,” chronicles West Central African encounters with Europeans, the impact this had on African culture, and the development of the transatlantic slave trade. The story of Angelo, one of the first West Central African women mentioned by name in the historical record noted in the 1625 “Muster of the Inhabitants of Virginia,” is told in refreshed permanent galleries.
American Revolution Museum at Yorktown
From the first shots fired at the Boston Massacre to the final victory at Yorktown and points in between, exhibits and films explore the contributions of both well-known and little-known participants in the Revolutionary War.
Among the iconic artifacts of the Revolution on exhibit is a circa 1733 portrait of Ayuba Suleiman Diallo, one of the two earliest known portraits done from life of an African who had been enslaved in the 13 British colonies that became the United States of America. Also on display is a first edition of the Phillis Wheatley 1773 volume, “Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral,” the first book to be published by a woman of African descent. Visitors can learn about diverse Americans – Patriots and Loyalists, women, and enslaved and free African Americans, including Benjamin Banneker, a free African American who became famous in the 1790s as a scientist and writer. An interactive exhibit shares accounts of Billy Flora and James Lafayette, an enslaved African American from New Kent County, Va., who successfully spied on the British for the American forces. Shown every 30 minutes in the museum theater, “Liberty Fever” features the stories of five people who lived during the American Revolution, including Billy Flora, an African-American hero of the Battle of Great Bridge in 1775.
Along the museum’s Grand Corridor, visitors can see representations of a coat worn by formerly enslaved people who joined the British 33rd Regiment of Foot and a hat from the American army’s 1st Rhode Island Regiment, which for a time during the Revolution included several companies of African American soldiers.
At the re-created Continental Army encampment, accessible during outdoor guided tours through February 28, historical interpreters discuss life of a Revolutionary War soldier, including the roles of African Americans and the 1775 proclamation by Lord Dunmore, promising freedom to people enslaved by rebellious colonists, if they came to the British side. On the re-created Revolution-era farm, visitors can glimpse of the lives and roles of enslaved people on a small farm and African influence on American foodways.
At the end of gallery exhibits, education enrichment carts about African Americans during the American Revolution will be available form 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. throughout February.
About the Museums
Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily year-round, are separated by a 25-minute drive along the Colonial Parkway, a National Scenic Byway. Outdoor interpretive areas are accessible through guided tours from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. through February 28, and open 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. the rest of the year. Jamestown Settlement is located on Route 31 just southwest of Williamsburg. The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown is located on Route 1020 in Yorktown. Parking is free.
A value-priced combination ticket to both museums is $28.90 for adults and $14.45 for ages 6-12. Admission to Jamestown Settlement is $18.00 for adults and $9.00 for ages 6-12 and, to the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, $16.00 for adults and $8.00 for ages 6-12. Children ages 5 and under are admitted free. Residents of James City County, York County and the City of Williamsburg, including William & Mary students, receive complimentary admission with proof of residency. For more information, call (757) 253-4838.