Experience Black History in Williamsburg


Experience Black History in Williamsburg 

Williamsburg’s museums strive to tell a full, honest, and inclusive story of Virginia’s history. Experience the outstanding exhibits on display year-round that honor African American contributions to colonial Virginia.

Visitors to Historic Jamestowne can explore The Angela Site, where Jamestown Rediscovery archaeologists, in partnership with the National Park Service, excavated Captain William Pierce’s property to learn more about the household and landscape of the site where Angela, one of the first Africans to arrive in Virginia, lived.

Jamestown Settlement’s interactive exhibits and dramatic films tell the full story of early Virginia. A powerful multimedia presentation, “From Africa to Virginia,” chronicles African encounters with Europeans, the impact on African culture, and the development of the transatlantic slave trade. Additionally, period artifacts and expansive exhibits frame the story of the first Africans, with information on their life in Ndongo (Angola), life in the Virginia colony, development of the transatlantic slave trade, and the evolution of a new African American culture.

African American contributions to the American Revolution are often overlooked, but the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown does not shy away from the topic. 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 and a first edition of the Phillis Wheatley 1773 volume, “Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral,” the first book to be published by an African American. Visitors can also learn about influential figures such as Benjamin Banneker, a free African American who became famous in the 1790s as a scientist and writer, Billy Flora, an African American hero of the Battle of Great Bridge, and James Lafayette, an enslaved African American, who successfully spied on the British for the American forces.

The diverse programming of Colonial Williamsburg examines the real stories of enslaved and free Black people of the 18th century through a variety of mediums. 

  • Special in 2021 is the ongoing archaeological investigation of the original permanent site of the city’s historic First Baptist Church on South Nassau Street. Established secretly in 1776 the church represents one of the oldest Christian congregations established by African Americans in the country;
  • The Nation Builder’s program allows guests of the museum to speak to a costumed historian who embodies the character of an early Virginian. Programs offered daily include: “Nation Builders Discuss the Institution of Slavery,” “Succordia’s Prayer,” and “Across the Board” which examines the relationship between a young Thomas Jefferson and his enslaved manservant Jupiter;
  • Special tours available include “Slavery and the Law,” “African American Contributions at the Governor’s Palace,” and “Freedom’s Paradox,” which highlights the juxtaposition of establishing American independence while defining the institution of slavery;
  • At the Art Museums, guests can take the self-guided tour “By African American Hands,” that showcases objects crafted by Black artists and artisans including pottery, paintings, furniture, and textiles.

For more information, contact publicrelations@visitwilliamsburg.com