1619: Jamestown and the Forging of American Democracy

Time Period
16,000 BCE to 1622 CE
Media Type
Politics & Government
Dr. James Horn

On October 17, 2018, James Horn delivered the J. Harvie Wilkinson, Jr. Lecture, “1619: Jamestown and the Forging of American Democracy.”

Along the banks of the James River, Virginia, during an oppressively hot spell in the middle of summer 1619, two events occurred within a month of each other that would profoundly shape the course of history. In the newly built church at Jamestown, the General Assembly—the first gathering of a representative governing body in America—came together at the end of July. Several weeks later, a battered privateer entered the Chesapeake Bay carrying the first African slaves to land on mainland English America. In 1619, historian James Horn sheds new light on the year that gave birth to the great paradox of our nation: slavery in the midst of freedom. This portentous year marked both the origin of the most important political development in American history, the rise of democracy, and the emergence of what would in time become one of the nation's greatest challenges: the corrosive legacy of racial inequality that has afflicted America since its beginning.

Dr. James Horn is President of the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation (Preservation Virginia) at Historic Jamestowne. Previously, he served as Vice President of Research and Historical Interpretation at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Saunders Director of the International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello, and before that taught for twenty years at the University of Brighton, England. He has held fellowships at the Johns Hopkins University, the College of William and Mary, and Harvard University, and is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. A leading expert on early Virginia, Dr. Horn is the author of numerous articles and books including A Land as God Made It: Jamestown and the Birth of America; A Kingdom Strange: The Brief and Tragic History of the Lost Colony of Roanoke; and 1619: Jamestown and the Forging of American Democracy, which has just been published.

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