The Birth of Black America: The First African Americans and the Pursuit of Freedom at Jamestown

Tim Hashaw, Author . Carroll & Graf $26.95 (329p) ISBN 978-0-78671-718-7

Hashaw (Children of Perdition: Melungeons and the Struggle for Mixed America ) offers a welcome variation on early America and the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown. Historians have long known that Africans first appeared in the Virginia record in 1619. Hashaw traces those first black Virginians back to Portuguese Angola: they were captives on a Spanish slave ship, which was attacked by two pirate vessels that eventually transported 60 or so Africans to Virginia and Bermuda. Hashaw recreates the lives some of these early African Virginians made for themselves: Benjamin Doll purchased six indentured English servants, became a plantation owner, learned to read and write, and was appointed by a white widow to serve as her attorney. Another eventually purchased African slaves. Perhaps straining to find a partially happy ending to the tragic first scene in the history of American racial slavery, Hashaw notes that Angolan Virginians participated in Bacon's Rebellion, and he suggests that the 1676 revolt was the first expression of a fighting spirit that culminated in abolition. Hashaw offers both an exciting story of crime on the high seas and a fascinating social history of 17th-century black America. Illus., maps. (Feb. 5)

Reviewed on: 11/20/2006
Release date: 02/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
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