The Starting Point of Racism
Eric Herschthal, February 19, 2019, The Washington Post
Four hundred years ago, Sir George Yeardley, the governor of the fledgling colony of Virginia, bought “20. and odd Negroes” from an English pirate named John Jope. Having attacked a Portuguese slave ship on its way to Mexico, Jope — technically a privateer, or a government-sponsored pirate — found 350 enslaved Angolans chained inside the fetid, overcrowded ship.
Jope took as many Angolans as he could, then made his way to Hampton, Va., where Yeardley bought several of them. Starved for labor, Yeardley did not think twice about putting these enslaved Africans to work alongside the colony’s many white indentured servants.
The arrival of those Angolans in 1619 has long served as the starting point of African American history, even of racism itself. This year, the 400th anniversary of their arrival, the date shows no signs of losing its prominence. Across thecountry, symposiums are being held, exhibitions planned and books published. But overemphasizing the date might, in fact, be damaging to today’s fight for racial justice.