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Jamestown Settlement Features African-American Folk Tales and Songs February 13 as Part of Black History Month

WILLIAMSBURG, Va., January 20, 2016 – Storytelling and musical performances highlight “African-American Imprint” on Saturday, February 13, at Jamestown Settlement, a living-history museum of 17th-century Virginia.

This family friendly Black History Month event features storyteller Sheila Arnold Jones, music by Legacy of Weyanoke and the Charles City Spiritual Ensemble, an African mask craft activity, and special interpretive programs in outdoor living-history areas. In Jamestown Settlement’s expansive gallery exhibits, visitors will learn about the culture of the first recorded Africans in Virginia, who arrived in 1619, and the experience of people of African descent in colonial America.


Sheila Arnold Jones, professional storyteller, character interpreter and teaching artist, will present tales of Africa and African-American heritage at 12 noon in the Robert V. Hatcher, Jr., Rotunda. For more than a decade, Jones has traveled the country with her company, History’s Alive!, sharing storytelling programs, historic character presentations, dramatic and creative writing workshops, and inspirational and motivational speeches.

At 2 p.m., Legacy of Weyanoke will take the audience on a musical journey that pays tribute to African ancestors and their history.  Founded in 1990 as an a cappella vocal ensemble performing songs and stories of African diaspora, the Caribbean and the American South, Legacy of Weyanoke’s mission is to research, preserve, perform and educate the public about folk-based music and literature with its origins in African heritage.  The group is comprised of professionally trained musicians with varied performing experiences in the U.S. and abroad.

The Charles City Spiritual Ensemble follows at 3 p.m. with spirituals that share an essential part of the history and heritage of black people in America and their struggle and faith during times of enslavement.  The ensemble, which has performed throughout the state since its formation in 2006, aims to affirm the dignity of black slaves as well as the humanity of their spirits.

Interpretive Demonstrations

In the re-created Powhatan Indian village at 10:30 a.m., visitors can help fashion a dugout canoe and compare and contrast Powhatan and Angolan cultures while learning about canoes and fishing.  “African Arrival,” a role-play experience at 1 p.m. at the replica 1607 English ships, illuminates the circumstances of the 1619 arrival in Virginia of 20-some Africans who had been captured by English privateers from a Portuguese ship en route from Angola to Mexico.  At 4 p.m. in the re-created fort, visitors can compare African and English warfare techniques and see the firing of matchlock musket.

Gallery exhibits

Permanent gallery exhibits chronicle the nation’s 17th-century beginnings in Virginia in the context of its Powhatan Indian, English and African cultures.  The parent culture of Africans brought to Virginia in 1619 is portrayed in a diorama that includes a full-scale dwelling and artifacts from the Ambundu culture of Angola.  A dramatic multimedia presentation describes African encounters with Europeans, the impact on African culture, and the development of the transatlantic slave trade.

Other Jamestown Settlement exhibits tell about Virginia’s tobacco-cultivation economy and its relationship to the evolution of slavery in the colony.  A structure re-created from an archaeological site depicts a late-17th-century slave quarter alongside a planter’s house and Indian cabin, also based on Virginia archaeological sites.  Decorative objects of ivory and metal made by west-central-African craftspeople, and archaeologically found objects made or used by enslaved people in Virginia can be seen in the gallery exhibits.

“African-American Imprint” is included with Jamestown Settlement general admission of $17.00 for adults, $8.00 for ages 6-12.  Children under 6 are free.  A combination ticket with the Yorktown Victory Center, a museum of the American Revolution, is $21.25 for adults, $10.75 for ages 6 through 12.

Jamestown Settlement is located at Route 31 and the Colonial Parkway near Williamsburg.  For more information, call (888) 593-4682 toll-free or (757) 253-4838, or visit hif.ciniva.net.