“It’s Not About Us”: Exploring White-Public Heritage Space, Community, and Commemoration on Jamestown Island, Virginia


This article explores the complex dynamics involved in making African Diaspora histories and cultures visible at Historic Jamestowne, a setting traditionally viewed as white public heritage space. In response to the 400th anniversary of the forcible arrival of Africans in Virginia, archaeologists and heritage professionals at Jamestown are engaging the local African American descendant community in collective knowledge production centered around Angela, one of the first African women that lived at Jamestown in the 1620s. This article explores the production of dominant histories, alternative interpretations of the (colonial) past, and relationships between heritage sites and local descendant communities.

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This article is adapted from my master’s thesis, undertaken at the Department of Anthropology at the College of William and Mary, on the intersection of race, memory, community, and archaeology on Jamestown Island in southeast Virginia. I would like to express my sincerest thanks to the community collaborators who shared their knowledge, questions, and memories with me. I am grateful to my faculty advisor Joseph Jones for his guidance, encouragement, and thoughtfulness. I would like to express the deepest appreciation to my committee members, Michael Blakey and Audrey Horning for their enthusiasm, constructive criticisms, and feedback. I greatly appreciate the support and funding I received from Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation, the National Park Service’s Colonial National Historical Park, and William & Mary’s Office of Graduate Studies and Research to conduct research at the Angela Site. A special thanks to Camille Westmont and Elizabeth Clay for inviting me to participate in this thematic issue. I would like to thank Adela Amaral, Neil Norman, Ravynn Stringfield, Jennifer Porter-Lupu, Tiffany Cain-Fryer, and Aja Lans for reviewing versions of this article and offering helpful suggestions.

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Reid, L.C. “It’s Not About Us”: Exploring White-Public Heritage Space, Community, and Commemoration on Jamestown Island, Virginia. Int J Histor Archaeol (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10761-021-00593-9

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  • African diaspora
  • Community-based archaeology
  • Black feminist archaeology
  • Memory
  • Heritage
  • Jamestown
  • Virginia