The First Thanksgiving

Time Period
16,000 BCE to 1622 CE
Media Type
American Indian History
Holiday & Traditions
Graham Woodlief and Barbara Ramos

On October 13, 2011, Graham Woodlief and Barbara Ramos delivered their lecture entitled "The First Thanksgiving."

Because of what they learned in elementary school, most Americans probably associate Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims in Massachusetts in 1621. Less well know outside Virginia is the fact that more than a year earlier, a hardy band of Englishmen landed at Berkeley Hundred on the James River and held the real first Thanksgiving. Captain John Woodlief and thirty-seven men sailed from Bristol, England, on the ship Margaret and reached Berkeley Hundred nearly three months later in December 1619. They marked their deliverance from the stormy north Atlantic with a simple service of thanks to God. Graham Woodlief and Barbara Ramos will tell the story of this first Thanksgiving in English-speaking America and of the origins of the Virginia Thanksgiving Festival, which led to President Kennedy's mention of Virginia in his Thanksgiving proclamation of 1963.

This lecture is cosponsored with the Virginia Thanksgiving Festival. (Introduction by Thomas A. Silvestri, President and Publisher, Richmond Times-Dispatch).

The content and opinions expressed in these presentations are solely those of the speaker and not necessarily of the Virginia Museum of History & Culture.

Want to listen to an audio-only version of this lecture? Listen now on Soundcloud.