The Commonwealth of Virginia is full of historical treasures that can be traced back to the origin of this nation. In this article, we will discuss how Virginia, one of the original 13 colonies, was introduced to the slave trade and ultimately served as a catalyst that laid the foundation for slave labor to flourish. Additionally, we will explore what the White Lion was, who were the “so-called” pirates, and how the indentured servitude was transformed and later removed with the arrival of enslaved people. Understanding how these historical puzzle pieces fit together provide a clearer lens of our history. What was done in our shared past, cannot be undone. However, we can move forward with a universal understanding of how mindsets and actions shaped this nation’s history.
·The Royal Race Smackdown
To fully capture the scene of colonial life, we must examine what life was like BEFORE the arrival of the Virginia colonists in 1607. Most of us are familiar with the story of Christopher Columbus discovering America. In truth, Mr. Columbus never set foot in North America. He simply discovered new lands that are now known as the Caribbean Islands. Some may ask, so what was he doing sailing around in 1492 anyway – like what his PURPOSE? In order to answer this, we have to turn back time to access what was going on across the Atlantic during the 1400’s. In this time, Portugal, Spain, France and England grew from small territories into powerful Kingdoms. In short, the race began to find other trade routes to Asia to increase these Kingdoms power and prosperity. The monarchs of these European empires were financially stable enough to finance overseas exploration. The initial push was to find an easier, faster, and more efficient trade route. However, when new lands were discovered, these countries quickly changed their mindsets to colonize the lands, search for gold and other riches, and to bring Christianity to its inhabitants.
Oceanic Battlegrounds & Choke Points of the 14th Century Superpowers.
Once these superpowers were alerted of new “unclaimed” land, the race began to settle the North American continent and to police the waterways from other Kingdom claims. By this time, both Spain and France had already established colonies in Florida and present-day Canada. At this point Kingdoms, such as Spain, England, Portugal, & France commissioned or paid third-party sailors to legally rob ships in what they believed were their “territorial waters”and could keep whatever was seized for themselves as a form of payment. This is where the term “Privateer” originated from. By definition, a privateer is as follows:
A privateer was a Pirate with papers. Privateers were private individuals commissioned by governments to carry out quasi-military activities. They would sail in privately owned armed ships, robbing merchant vessels and pillaging settlements belonging to a rival country. (#ThatPart)
The “Official” pirates had received royal orders or licenses to act accordingly as Pirates and were given exclusive permission to steal cargo and other variables from ships that they came across. This piece of history is monumental because the very FIRST African slaves were stolen cargo from a ship that was in the Caribbean and brought to North America. That ship was the WHITE LION. The White Lion, an English pirate ship, intercepted the Portuguese slave ship, the San Juan Bautista, and took its cargo of enslaved Africans to Virginia. Upon arriving at Point Comfort, Virginia (current day Ft. Monroe), “20 and odd” Africans were traded for food and supplies to the crew of the White Lion pirate ship.
Sacred Cargo Introduced to Colonial Life in Virginia.
In 1619 enslaved Africans were “double stolen” and delivered to Virginia’s shores. It’s hard (for me) to sometimes imagine what life would have been like for them. Before their arrival indentured servitude was in FULL effect throughout the colonies. This propaganda was used in England to promote the new territory to increase settlers. But in truth the colonies were struggling. Between Native American attacks and lack of food and resources, it was truly just a matter of time if things did not change course. Indentured Servants were mostly peasants or lower-class people from England that agreed to a work for a period of 7 years in exchange for up to 500 acres of land tracts. Owning land meant a sure way to come up in the food chain, therefore many lower class folks took their chances and sailed to the new world in 1607.
I think it is also important to note that the Virginia Colony (Jamestown, May 1607) was not the first British attempt to colonize the new world. An attempt was made twice previously in 1585 and 1587 in Roanoke, NC. Another failed attempt was the Popham Colony also established in 1607 (August) but failed and disbursed after 14 months.
Moving forward, the Jamestown colony had continued issues due to lack of food and attacks from the Native Americans. Sources state that between the early years of 1607-1610, Jamestown lost 80% of its population. By 1619 when the first Africans were traded into the colonial system, circumstances had begun to positively turn around for the colonist although they were still in desperate need of labor workers. It was this transaction that introduced additional labor forces to the colonist and ultimately laid the foundational blueprint for slavery to take hold within the colonies.
In conclusion, there are many hidden historical facts that are located in Virginia. I find it fascinating to uncover facts that were never spoken about in my childhood. Who knew that actual pirates or "paid for hire" vessels were responsible for bringing the first enslaved to our shores? Although I had heard about the "Lost Colony" pertaining to Roanoke, I never realized that it was that settlement that first put the English on its path to populating the East Coast with its colonization efforts. In the end, Virginia is deeply rooted in not only American history, but uniquely intertwined with the Superpowers from the 15th century.//