In the Historical Record
Africa and the Middle Passage
Angela likely had a rural upbringing in Ndongo, raising crops such as millet and sorghum and tending cattle. It is possible, because of the Portuguese presence in the region, that she had had at least some contact with Christianity. She may even have been baptized, her name being evidence of this fact. The Portuguese required that slaves be baptized before they arrived in America, but it was generally a pro forma gesture. Angelia likely did not practice the religion at the time of her capture. Sometime in 1619 she was one of 350 enslaved Africans sold to Manuel Mendes da Cunha, captain of the the São João Bautista at the port of São Paulo de Luando. The Portuguese ship was bound for Vera Cruz, New Spain (present-day Mexico), where its human cargo would be sold as slaves, with the vast majority going to labor in the sugar plantations of the Caribbean and South America.
The Treasurer arrived three or four days later and carried another twenty-five to twenty-nine Africans. The colony's deputy governor, Sir George Yeardley, sent Rolfe, Captain William Peirce, and another man to meet the ship, but by the time they arrived the Treasurer had fled. Because his letter of marque had expired, the captain feared arrest. He later sold fourteen slaves in Bermuda, suggesting that he had unloaded between eleven and fifteen in Virginia. (These numbers vary somewhat among historians.) It is likely that Peirce purchased at least one of these Africans, the woman Angela.
Little is known of Angela's life in Virginia. Her owner, William Peirce, was captain of the Governor's guard and commander of Jamestown Island and its blockhouses, the small fortified structures that dotted the perimeter of the settlement. He was elected a burgess in 1624 and served on the governor's Council from 1632 to 1643. A planter and entrepreneur, Peirce ran a store in Jamestown and was heavily involved in the tobacco business initiated by his son-in-law John Rolfe, who had been the first Virginian to cultivate a marketable form of the plant. In 1625, the Peirce household included Mrs. Joane Peirce and the servants Thomas Smith, aged seventeen, and Henry Bradford, aged thirty-five, both of whom had arrived aboard the Abigaile in January 1625. Ester Edrife worked as a maidservant and had been in the colony since 1619 or 1620.
1575 - The Portuguese send a military expedition to the mouth of the Kwanza River in central Africa in search of silver.
1580 - The death of King Henry, of Portugal, leads to a dynastic union with Spain and Spanish access to Portugal's sources of slaves in Africa.
1618–1619 - Luis Mendes de Vasconçelos leads campaigns against Kimbundu-speaking people in West Central Africa, capturing thousands. These Africans likely provided the cargo for six slave ships that arrived in Mexico from June 1619 until June 1620.
1619 - Sometime in the first half of the year, the Portuguese slave ship São João Bautista leaves the port of São Paulo de Loanda, a Portuguese military outpost in West Africa, and sails for Vera Cruz, New Spain (present-day Mexico). It carries a cargo of 350 enslaved Africans.
July–August 1619 - Two English ships, the White Lion and the Treasurer, both sailing out of the Netherlands, intercept the Portuguese slaver São João Bautista off the coast of Campeche in present-day Yucatán. After stealing fifty or so slaves, the ships sail to Virginia with the intention of selling them.
Late August 1619 - The White Lion, captained by John Colyn Jope, arrives at Point Comfort, where Jope sells "20. and odd Negroes" in exchange for food. These are the first Africans to enter the Virginia colony. Four days later, the Treasurer arrives and sells an unknown number of its slaves.
August 30, 1619 - Manuel Mendes da Cunha, captain of the Portuguese slave ship São João Bautista, arrives in Vera Cruz, New Spain (present-day Mexico), with only 147 slaves. He left West Africa with 350, but some were stolen off the coast of Campeche and transported to Virginia for sale. Others probably died en route.
March 1620 - Virginia's first muster, or census, is compiled and lists 892 Europeans and, among "Others not Christians in the Service of the English," four Indians and thirty-two Africans. Fifteen of the Africans are male and seventeen are female.
February 1624 - The population of Europeans in the Virginia colony is 906. A muster, or census, lists twenty-one Africans, down from thirty-two in 1620. Twelve of the Africans are identified by name, suggesting they have been baptized.
February 16, 1624 - The Jamestown muster lists "Angelo a Negar," an African woman, as living in the household of William Peirce.
January 20–February 7, 1625 - The population of Europeans in the Virginia colony is 1,232. A muster, or census, lists twenty-three Africans and one Indian, all of them servants. They live on plantations scattered from the mouth of the James River to Flowerdew Hundred.
January 24, 1625 - The Jamestown muster lists "Angelo a Negro Woman" as living in the household of William Peirce.
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Wolfe, B. Angela (fl. 1619–1625). (2019, May 23). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Angela_fl_1619-1625.
- MLA Citation:
Wolfe, Brendan. "Angela (fl. 1619–1625)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 23 May. 2019. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: September 17, 2018 | Last modified: May 23, 2019
Contributed by Brendan Wolfe, editor of Encyclopedia Virginia.