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The Story of Angelo

at Jamestown Settlement
‘TENACITY’ Exhibition Featured ‘Angelo’ Document on loan from The National Archives of UK

Jamestown Settlement’s “TENACITY: Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia” special exhibition, a legacy project of the 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution on display November 10, 2018, through January 5, 2020, featured two rare documents related to Angelo, among the first recorded Africans in the colony, on loan for the first time in America from The National Archives of the United Kingdom.

Muster of Virginia, c 1625, Angelo a negro woman on the Treasurer, Courtesy of National Archives of the UK

“Muster of the Inhabitants of Virginia,” circa 1625. Courtesy of The National Archives of the UK, ref. CO1/3 f136v.

The first was a page from the February 16, 1624 “List of Living and Dead,” a list of the colony’s inhabitants taken following the March 1622 Indian uprising which lists Angelo, a negro woman. The second was the 1625 “Muster of the Inhabitants of Virginia.” In June 1624, Virginia became a royal colony following the dissolution of the Virginia Company of London. King James I ordered Virginia’s leaders to make a record of the colony’s inhabitants and provisions. This muster was a house-by-house list which documents “Angelo A Negro woman in the Treasuror” living in the household of William Peirce at Jamestown. This entry is significant, because it identifies the ship on which Angelo arrived in Virginia, Treasurer.

The Treasurer was one of two ships that arrived in Virginia in 1619 carrying Africans. These
Angolans men and women had been captured in a series of wars against the Kongo and Ndongo
kingdoms in west central Africa. As captives, they were forced to walk to Luanda, the major
slave port, and boarded the San Juan Bautista, a slave ship bound for Vera Cruz on the coast of
Mexico. In the Gulf of Mexico, the ship was attacked by to English privateers, the White Lion
and Treasurer, and robbed of 50-60 Africans. The White Lion and the Treasurer then sailed up the
coast of North America to Virginia, landing at Point Comfort, or modern-day Hampton. It was late August 2019 and John Rolfe, a planter and merchant, reported on the arrival of the White Lion noting that “20 and odd Negroes” were “bought for victuals.” The Treasurer arrived at Point Comfort a few days later, and likely sold a number of Africans before leaving for Bermuda. One of these we now know from the 1624-25 muster was a woman named Angelo, who was taken to Jamestown and worked on the property of William and Joann Peirce. New research was uncovered about the circumstances of the first documented Africans to arrive in 1619.

Jamestown Settlement ‘1607: A Nation Takes Root’ Docudrama Features Story of Angelo of Angola

“1607: A Nation Takes Root” features the story of Angelo of Angola. Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation photo.

Jamestown Settlement’s introductory film “1607: A Nation Takes Root,” shown daily in the museum theater, shares the story of three cultures spanning three continents.  The docudrama film provides an overview of the first two decades of America’s first permanent English colony and the Powhatan Indian, European and African cultures that converged in early 1600s Virginia. The film chronicles events of Jamestown’s early years – trade and conflict between the English and Powhatans, the struggle of the colonists to survive, the leadership of John Smith and his permanent departure from Virginia in 1609, the installation of a military governor and martial law, and the marriage of Pocahontas, daughter of the Powhatan paramount chief Wahunsonacock, to John Rolfe in 1614, initiating a period of peace between the Powhatans and colonists.

Jamestown Settlement film scene - Angolan village

Later the story moves to a village in the kingdom of Ndongo in Angola, on the west coast of Africa. A woman seen in the village, “Angelo,” is later shown as a captive of the Portuguese, waiting to be transported across the sea to Mexico. The Portuguese ship carrying a human cargo of slaves was intercepted en route by English privateers, and 20-some of the Angolans were brought to Virginia, the first documented Africans in the colony.  Among them was Angelo, who was known to live in Virginia in 1624. Filming locations included the African country of Angola, where inhabitants of the town of Massangano, using traditional construction methods and materials, built a set depicting a 17th-century Ndongan village. Filmmakers selected Angolan locations where the events of 1619 took place, including Massangano, where captured Angolans were held as prisoners by the Portuguese before being sent to the coast, and the Ilha do Cabo (Cape Island), where enslaved people were loaded on ships and sent to America.