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What is American Evolution?

By WILLIAM PAINE

william.paine@southwesttimes.com

American Evolution is a commemoration of the 400th anniversary of several historical events that occurred in Virginia in 1619 and still continue to influence America today.

Several key events occurred that year, including the formation of the first representative legislative assembly in Virginia. In 1619, Governor George Yeardley authorized the selection of two males from each of the 11 major settlement areas in Virginia for the purpose of improving management of the Colony. This representative body was, and is now known as the General Assembly.

In 1619, Virginia Company officials sent instructions to create profits from pursuits other than growing tobacco, which was the primary source of income for the company. These instructions were adopted by the General Assembly and thus began what is recognized by the creators of American Evolution, as the beginning of the free enterprise system in the United States.

Another significant occurrence in 1619 was the arrival of the first Africans who came to the coast of Virginia as prisoners who were captured by privateers and traded for provisions. The African population of Virginia would soon grow significantly and now many of their descendants live and prosper in the Commonwealth.

After many years of hardship, the Virginia Company declared that it intended to recruit 100 women to be the wives of the inhabitants of Jamestown in order to make the men there “more settled and less moveable.” The following year, 90 women arrived in Jamestown followed by another 57 in 1621. this is the first instance of women of European heritage arriving in Virginia in significant numbers.

That same year, the Virginia Company declared that property owners along the James River shall yearly and perpetually keep a holy day of thanksgiving to Almighty God. This predated the Thanksgiving held by Plymouth Colonists in 1621.

From these events that occurred 400 years ago, American Evolution derives the themes of Democracy, for the establishment of the General Assembly, diversity with the arrival of significant numbers of women and Africans and opportunity, as the free enterprise system began to take root in the New World.

For the 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution will have several exhibitions and events around the Commonwealth. The Jamestown Settlement will feature a yearlong exhibition called “Tenacity” which will explore the personal stories of women in the Virginia Colony and the impact of their tenacious spirit on Society.

On March 20, theological scholars will gather at Virginia University in Richmond to discuss the religious context of Virginia in 1619 and its impact of people of color.

From April 25 to 28 in Norfolk, the Virginia International Tattoo will recognize 2019 with more than 1,000 performers including fife and drum corps, bagpipers and performing ensembles of various descriptions.

There are many other events recognizing this significant year in Virginia’s history and they are listed at the American Evolution website.

Locally, an American Evolution Committee has been formed and plans are in the works to help locales share stories centering around the themes of Democracy, Diversity and Opportunity. There will be more details on that in tomorrow’s edition.

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