Celebrate America's Birth
400 years of history come to life in Jamestown, Virginia
|Williamsburg, Virginia, Mayor Jean Zidler with Scholastic Kid Reporters Trevor Brady and Lisa Saunders at an interview in Williamsburg in November 2006. (Photo: Suzanne Freeman)|
This year marks the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Jamestown colony, America’s first British settlement. The event will be commemorated with yearlong celebrations and events, culminating in a three-day festival on May 11-13, the actual dates of the British landing.
“Jamestown is important not only because it was the first permanent and successful English settlement, but because a number of things started here that continue to impact us today,” Jamestown mayor Jean Zidler told Scholastic News Online recently.
Scholastic Kid Reporters visited Historic Jamestowne, the Jamestown Settlement, and Colonial Williamsburg in November to learn about the background and upcoming events.
Reporters also participated in an international Web cast called Jamestown Live that was broadcast across the U.S. and in thirteen countries. The broadcast was to educate students about the history of Jamestown and early America.
In 1619, Jamestown was the site of the first democratic election in American history. “Jamestown is really the place that started our multicultural society,” Zidler said. Interaction between three main groups of people—English, Native Americans, and Africans—was necessary for survival in the early years of the colony’s founding.
|Kids pose with flags from around the world waiting for their cue to begin a parade of flags for the Jamestown Live! Web cast in November 2006. The Web cast was broadcast around the world. (Photo: Suzanne Freeman)|
The celebration began early in 2006, and doesn't stop until this fall.
The first major event was held last year when the Godspeed sailed along the Atlantic coast and up the James River. The Godspeed was one of three ships from the English East India Company that was sent to the Americas in 1607.
In May 2006 a replica (an exact copy) of the ship traveled for 80 days to six different ports. The ports included Alexandria, Virginia; Baltimore, Maryland; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; New York, New York; Boston, Massachusetts; and Newport, Rhode Island. The journey ended near Jamestown with a landing party.
One of the biggest events will be America's Anniversary Weekend, which is from May 11 to May 13. Events will include live music from three-time Grammy winner Bruce Hornsby & The Noise Makers, legendary funk and R&B musician Chaka Kahn, and several others. The event will end with a 400-piece orchestra and a 1,607-voice choir!
The final event is the Forum on the Future of Democracy, a series of international conferences on democracy. Former presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain are the Honorary Chairs of the conference.
The yearlong celebration will end in September 2007 in Jamestown and Williamsburg, Virginia. Leaders from democracies around the world will attend this final forum or conference.
Mayor Zidler believes there are lessons to be learned from the story of colonial Jamestown. Jamestown, Zidler says, is all about “a spirit of exploration that brought the Englishmen and the Europeans to America to new lands and new cultures and new environments…”
But the most important legacy of Jamestown is its multicultural message.
“[W]e have people who come from different backgrounds, who have different beliefs, who come from different family groups, who may look different or may have different skin colors, but all of those people worked together to build this nation,” she said. “We value differences because it makes us stronger.”
Trevor Brady is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.