Celebrating 400 years of Virginia history right in your backyard

A statewide celebration is about kick off. It’s all to celebrate Virginia heritage and to beg the question: What does it mean to call Virginia home?

Many years in the making, American Evolution is a yearlong commemoration, recognizing the 400th anniversary of five key milestones in the state’s history, all of which happened in 1619.

Across Virginia, 2019 will see a whole host of events, exhibitions, educational initiatives, and the launch of a multimedia storytelling platform.

According to American Evolution, the five historically impactful events commemorated include:

  • The first representative legislative assembly in the New World: Colonial Gov. George Yeardley’s General Assembly met for the first time in July of 1619. “This assembly planted the first seed of representative democracy in America,” according to an American Evolution news release.
  • The arrival of the first recorded Africans to English North America: An English ship docked in Point Comfort in August of 1619 carrying some Africans who would become indentured servants. Though slavery was not yet institutionalized at this time, racism and prejudice were already common, according to the news release. “The arrival of Africans in the colonies set in motion our nation’s ongoing journey towards equality.”
  • The recruitment of English women in significant number: Though the colony was established in 1607, it wasn’t until 1619 when 147 women were recruited across the Atlantic to join the male settlers, a turning point for the fledgling Jamestown.
  • The first official Thanksgiving in North America: Though often attributed to Plymouth, some historians argue that the first official Thanksgiving on North American soil took place in Virginia on December 4, 1619, where Berekely Plantation stands today.
  • The entrepreneurial and innovative spirit of the Virginia colony: In 1619 the Virginia Company passed laws allowing colonists to experiment with a myriad of different industries. “With these developments, Virginia became the vanguard of what has become America’s free enterprise system,” according to the news release.

American Evolution will begin 2019 with a one-hour documentary titled “Evolution of America: 1619 – 2019” airing on PBS channels Friday, Jan. 4.

Throughout the year, all over the state, American Evolution sponsored events and exhibitions will celebrate “diversity, democracy and opportunity.”

Want to take part? Here is a list of American Evolution sponsored and partnered events taking place in the Historic Triangle, Hampton and Newport News:

Signature Events


Partner Programs

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John Mangalonzo (john@localvoicemedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.