In the original European colonies of America, civil laws (and their contemporary iterations as US federal and state laws) were used as tools for European fathers to protect their wives, daughters, and other properties they were given, oftentimes by decree from the Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, French, or British crown (or the Pope).
Prevailing narratives describing the history of the Americas profess that since 1492, as matter of European settler-colonial decree, African descendant peoples, Indians, fatherless European women and the enslaved have no rights to land or property in the Americas. In contemporary cities across the country vestiges of this “historical reality” persist, from the lessons in the urban schoolhouse to the landscapes of the rural homestead. However accurately these lessons capture the environment shaped by European settler-colonial thought, it completely dismisses the American reality that existed prior to the arrival of British colonists. Thus, the “historical truths” supporting contemporary discussion fall short of enabling Americans to engage in informed conversation about the past; we become stuck in an agitated space of manufactured ‘truth’ without the capacity to ever reach honest moments of reconciliation and reparation.
Dr. Cornel West lectured on the notion of “moral reasoning and the unarmed truth;” a talk that resulted in deep debate around whose ‘morals’ and how being ‘unarmed’ is not an option for some communities managing very deep trauma. The American environment is managing very deep trauma that results, in large part, from the fact that European settler-colonial thought, behaviors, and attitudes, from 1492 to present day, continue to wholly dismiss the American culture existing for thousands of years before European contact.
In 1619, in Jamestown, Virginia, we see a well-documented moment where European (as well as Indian) women were traded as a commodity to serve the needs of wealthy European men. This is significant to our company because (1) our company’s namesake (Sally Blagg) was an Indian ‘Tobacco Bride’ from Surry, Virginia (2) this begins to explain the dissociative mannerisms of some contemporary European-Americans, and (3) this rarely discussed historical event creates tremendous context regarding the lineage of how European-American women view themselves, their rights, and the freedoms they enjoy in contrast to the European communities from which they came as opposed to those same rights and freedoms within the context of the environment of the Americas.
Here are a few articles about the culture of European “Tobacco Brides” –
THE JAMESTOWN BRIDES: THE STORY OF THE VIRGINIA COMPANY’S TRADE IN YOUNG ENGLISH WIVES A Lecture by Jennifer Potter (Virginia Museum of History & Culture)
When the Jamestown Colony Placed Ads to Attract Brides by Becky Little (History.com)
The Mail-Order Brides of Jamestown, Virginia by Marcia Zug (The Atlantic)
Over the past few years we have written quite a bit about our pre-design capacity building work in the Historic Germantown section of the Philadelphia County (see our ‘Press’ page). Over the next several months we are working with elder women, veterans, mothers, fathers and their families to connect them with the resources in Philadelphia County to tell their stories of intrinsic value. We consider this our independent truth, reconciliation and reparations process. Together, we will build a future that is empowered by our collective past; a history that spans far beyond the exploits of 1619.