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Modern Voices
Thomas Davis on the first Africans in Virginia
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Q: In Virginia, indentured servants are the first labor pool -- in about 1619, the first Africans arrive. What did the Africans encounter in the Virginia Colony?
Thomas Davis

A: Well, there probably are Africans in the Virginia colony before that famous ship that John notes in his journal in 1619. What the Africans are seeing is a wilderness, forested plains, teeming waters. They've come to a place that's undeveloped in the way that Europeans envision that development. And they're put to task immediately, in the same way that Africans are in what becomes Manhattan. To cut the trees. To pick up the stones. To move the boundaries. To level land, put crops in, fetch water, fish, hunt. To do all the necessary and myriad labors that settlement and society demand.
Thomas J. Davis
Professor of History
Arizona State University

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