Northam officially launches 2019 Commemoration

jojacobs@vagazette.com

With a signed proclamation, Gov. Ralph Northam formally launched 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution with a ceremony Wednesday in Richmond.

The 2019 Commemoration is a special statewide event to recognize the 400th anniversary of several key events that took place at the Jamestown colony in 1619, specifically the first time a representative legislative body convened in the New World, the first recorded arrival of Africans in English North America and the first time English women were recruited in significant numbers to come to the colony.

“American Evolution will share authentic and inclusive stories of the untold, or undertold history that is Virginia. Stories of courageous women, African Americans and Virginia Indians we likely didn’t learn about in our history books, but forever altered the course of history and continue to influence us today,” Northam said. “While we use this 400th commemoration to appreciate how far we have come, we must also remain vigilant to identify areas we must improve.”

Over the next 14 months, a wide variety of special museum exhibitions, educational initiatives and other programs will take place to mark the anniversary, Northam said.

Among those commemoration events is a special exhibition about English, African and Native American women that will open at Jamestown Settlement Nov. 10. There’s also a Virginia history mobile app that launched in May, and a monument to women’s contributions to Virginia will be built at the State Capitol.

“From its earliest days, Virginia history has been at the vanguard of American history. Virginia’s significant impact on American history and culture can be traced back to key 1619 events,” said Speaker of the House of Delegates Kirk Cox.

In addition to the arrival of the first Africans and recruitment of women, which began the long and integral roles those populations have played in American history, 1619 also marks the first English Thanksgiving in the New World, which took place in Virginia two years before the Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving in Massachusetts, Cox said.

The commemoration will have economic benefits for the state, as it will likely provide a booster shot to the tourism industry, Virginia Tourism Corporation President and CEO Rita McClenny said.

“We’re blessed with an abundance of history and every day we continue to make history., McClenny said. “Virginia is a desirable destination for family and friends and loved ones.”

In 2017, there was $25 billion in visitor spending, which generated $2 billion in state and local tax revenue, and the commemoration’s programming will give those figures a bump, McClenny said.

“We show the power of storytelling, the power of shared experiences. Because we know that everything we share on the human level is much more important and much deeper than any of the differences we have,” McClenny said.

Jacobs can be reached by phone at 757-298-6007.

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