Jamestown Legacy: Creating a Symbol
Students will identify legacies of Jamestown and describe some of
the successes realized and challenges faced by the Englishmen,
Powhatan Indians and Africans in early Virginia.
Standards of Learning:
Virginia SOL: VS1b, d, e, g, h; VS3a, b, c, d, e, f, g; VS4a; USI.
1b, d, e
National Standards of History: Historical Comprehension
Materials Needed for Activity:
Video: Discovering Jamestown: Legacy (Windows Media Player required. Click here to
Other Helpful Resources:
See background materials and lesson plans under Curriculum
Protestantism – Christian religions other than Eastern Orthodox or
Roman Catholic; derived from the word “protest”
free enterprise – a private business system with a minimum of
governmental intervention and control
common law – the unwritten law based on custom or court decision,
as distinct from statutory law
symbol – a material object representing something else, often an
idea or belief
legacy – anything handed down from the past, as from ancestors or
those who have gone before
In 2007, America recognized the 400th anniversary of Jamestown,
Virginia, the first permanent English settlement in North America.
The founding of Jamestown was characterized by hardships,
sacrifices and cultural encounters which helped shape our nation
and the world.
The first settlers at Jamestown came looking for wealth for
Virginia Company shareholders and a better life for themselves, as
well as an increased global presence for their country. Additional
motives, expressed by the Virginia Company’s first charter, were
to prevent the spread of Spanish colonies and to spread Anglican
Christianity by converting the Virginia Indians. After many years
of experimenting with different industries, the colonists found
little profit for the colony until John Rolfe began to experiment
with a new brand of tobacco. In 1614, after he shipped several
containers of tobacco to London where it was in great demand,
Rolfe met with immediate success. Colonists then began planting
tobacco everywhere, and the face of the Virginia colony began to
change. In 1618, the Virginia Company gave colonists the right to
In 1619, the first meeting of a representative legislative body in
North America met in the church at Jamestown. This meeting gave
birth to what eventually would become representative democracy in
America. 1619 also witnessed the arrival of the first Africans in
Virginia. These Africans were from the kingdom of Ndongo in Angola
and were captives of the Portuguese from a war which had been
fought with the kingdom. They were taken from a Portuguese ship by
an English privateer that took them to Point Comfort in
present-day Hampton, where they were traded for supplies. They
became part of the workforce for the colonists without whom the
tobacco economy could never have prospered as it did. By the
mid-seventeenth century, the enslavement of Africans was becoming
more common in the Virginia colony.
The Indian wars of 1622 and 1644 were the last major resistance on
the part of the Powhatan Indians to move the English from their
lands, and eventually, the Indians were forced to reservations.
Jamestown continued as Virginia’s political and social center
until 1699, when the seat of government was moved to Williamsburg.
The Jamestown colony left powerful legacies that have influenced
America and still endure today. America’s system of free
enterprise and the right of individuals to own land are essential
to our way of life. Our system of representative government is
considered a basic American institution and has had a profound
influence on nations and people throughout the world. The
interaction and struggles of diverse cultures contributed to our
country’s rich cultural diversity and grew from the sacrifices and
relationships forged by the Powhatan, English, and Africans
cultures that come together during those early years at Jamestown.
Step 1: Review with students the role of Europeans during the age
of exploration, especially the Spanish and the Portuguese. Remind
them that England was eager to share in the wealth available
around the world and that King James I granted the Virginia
Company of London its charter to start a colony in the Chesapeake
Bay area as a means to realize this goal. Remind students that the
Spanish had been eager to establish missions to promote
Catholicism in their colonies and that when the English reached
the Chesapeake Bay, they were quick to plant a cross, a symbol
representing the introduction of Protestantism into North America.
They named the point of land Cape Henry after Prince Henry, the
eldest son of King James I.
Step 2: Ask students if they can name other symbols. The flag and
the eagle are symbols of our country today. Remind them that the
Jamestown fort is a symbol frequently used to represent the
experiences of the people at Jamestown. Ask students why they
think the fort is often used as the symbol. Remind students that
symbols mean different things to different people. What are some
examples of things it might represent? Examples might include
ideas such as struggle, bravery, or permanence.
Step 3: Have students watch the video, Discovering Jamestown: Legacy.
Ask students to listen for some of the ideas, practices or
institutions from Jamestown that still exist today.
Step 4: Ask students to list the legacies they learned about in
the video– free enterprise, private land ownership, representative
government, and cultural diversity. Are there other legacies from
Jamestown that were not discussed in the video? If so, they should
be prepared to explain why they believe it is a legacy of
Jamestown. Examples might include such things as the rule of law
or Protestantism. Ask students to create a symbol that they think
represents one of the legacies of Jamestown. Students may make a
rough drawing of the symbol they wish to use or they may write a
description of it.
Summary Activity: Have students share their symbols and explain
why they chose what they did. Have the class discuss what
difficulties they had in deciding on their symbols. Why do they
think it was so difficult or not so difficult? Optional: you may
wish to vote on the symbol(s) students feel best represents the
legacies of Jamestown.
The “Discovering Jamestown” electronic classroom was made possible
by Dominion & Dominion Foundation and John and Dorothy Estes.
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