‘Our history matters:’ Crews set up for events recognizing 400 years of American democracy

Capitol Connection

JAMESTOWN, Va. — Preparations are underway at the Jamestown Settlement for an historic celebration of 400 years of representative government in Virginia. 

President Donald Trump will be speaking to members of the General Assembly and guests at the 2019 Commemoration: American Evolution Tuesday. The event marks the first meeting of the General Assembly in Jamestown on July 30, 1619.

Retired Virginia history teacher Doris Rawlings, of Cortland, recalls bringing her students to the settlement on field trips. Now, her grandchildren from North Carolina are visiting for a special reason. 

“We have been discussing this, talking about this and just 400 years ago, just to think where we have gone from there,” Rawlings said.

Rawlings’ late father-in-law, William Vincent Rawlings, served as a senator in the Virginia General Assembly from 1961 to 1975. 

“We wanted to be here as close to the celebrations as we could come… so it makes it very special  that he was also a lawmaker in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” she added. 

The celebrations don’t only recognize the work of lawmakers throughout Virginia and our nation’s history, but also the role of women in the Jamestown settlement as well as enslaved Africans brought to America. 

There are a variety of ongoing exhibits throughout Jamestown and the Commonwealth on these topics. American Evolution’s Executive Director Kathy Spangler says “Virginia is committed to opening a dialogue to have an authentic conversation” about the good and bad parts of the Commonwealth’s history.  

“We hope that generations will come to understand that our history matters to who we are today and important to who we want to become in the future,” Kathy Spangler, the Executive Director of American Evolution, said. 

3-day event will also be held at the end August to recognize the first landing of enslaved Africans in English North America at Fort Monroe. 

The president’s speech Tuesday is closed to the public, but there will be a live stream on our website. 

The General Assembly set aside money in the budget a few years ago to fund the commemoration events. Corporate sponsors also contributed, Spangler said. 

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