Descendants of 1st enslaved Africans in North America visit ancestors’ birthplace of Angola

Mildred Europa Taylor January 25, 2022
Photo Courtesy of William Tucker 1624 Society

The Tuckers of Virginia, descendants of the first enslaved Africans to come to North America, recently traveled to Angola, the birthplace of their ancestors. The Tuckers are believed to be descendants of two of the first enslaved Africans to land in English North America at Point Comfort in 1619, which is currently Hampton, Virginia. Those first enslaved Africans came from Angola.

Vincent Tucker and his sister, Wanda, were among the Tucker family that visited Angola last month for five days to have a sense of connection with their forebears in Africa. Vincent and Wanda are the founders of The William Tucker 1624 Society, an organization that researches the life of William Tucker, who “became the first documented African child born in English-occupied North America.” The Society also researches the life of William’s descendants; many still live in Hampton.

Vincent and his family said they took the trip to Angola at the invitation of the country’s president, João Lourenco. Lourenco had visited Washington D.C. some months back and toured the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. And that was where he met the Tuckers and invited them to his country to know more about the history of their ancestors.

“My mind began to bring everything together,” Vincent Tucker said of the trip, according to 13 News Now. “The stories I’ve been hearing, they started coming alive.”

The Virginia family said one of the most emotional moments of their trip was dipping their feet in the Kwanza River, which served as an access point for slave ships on their way to the port of Luanda.

“We can just imagine how that journey was for the enslaved — taken down to the river and being hauled away. It was very touching,” said Vincent.

Historical accounts had previously believed that the first Africans came from the Caribbean, but later details showed that they came from the kingdom of Ndongo, in present-day Angola. According to the Hampton History Museum, they were captured there by Portuguese colonists and sent to the port of Luanda on board the slave ship São João Baptista. The ship, in all, carried about 350 enslaved people and was on its way to Veracruz, in present-day Mexico when it was intercepted by the English ship, the White Lion.

“The British crew robbed part of the Portuguese cargo, including a few dozen African captives – among those who had survived the brutal journey thus far. A few days later, it was at Point Comfort that the British vessel finally landed, in the hopes of trading the enslaved Africans for food and supplies,” a report by France 24 said.

According to the Tucker family from Hampton, Virginia, years ago, they used ‘ground-penetrating radar’ to search a piece of their property and found 104 unmarked graves. Members of the Tucker family believe that those graves are the remains of their ancestors, who were among the first enslaved Africans to arrive in 1619.

Like many African Americans, the Tuckers have struggled to trace their roots. According to USA Today, the Tuckers have no genealogical or DNA evidence linking them to those first Africans, but they have oral history and family lore. Carolita Jones-Cope told CBS News in 2019 that oral history connects her family to Captain William Tucker, whose plantation was a quarter-mile from where the Tucker family cemetery is found today.

“Captain William Tucker was the commander of Point Comfort … and he kept two of those servants, Anthony and Isabella,” Cope said. “In 1624, it lists that Anthony and Isabella had a child, William, and that he was born and baptized. … That was the start of our family and legacy here in Virginia.”

For the Tuckers, connecting to where they came from means accepting where they are today. Following their five-day visit to Angola, the Tuckers told 13 News Now that since people in both the U.S. and Angola are still learning the history of 1619 and how it has impacted life today, the hope is to build partnerships between the two countries not only educationally but economically.

“There’re so many missing pieces on both continents.

“I feel empowered to identify myself as Angolan-American now because I know where my family came from, and that’s powerful,” said Wanda.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: January 26, 2022


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