Tim Hashaw's The Birth of Black America: The First African Americans and the Pursuit of Freedom at Jamestown follows the inaugural voyage of almost 30 African men, women and children to these shores (specifically Jamestown, Virginia) in 1619. Very little has been written about the trip until now, and Hashaw's credentials and expertise as an award-winning reporter are particularly useful as he examines two distinct, related elements in this story. One involves the business/commerce angle, as he shows how England's attack on a Spanish slave ship and the pirating of its cargo of Africans violated a treaty, causing King James to dissolve the Virginia Company of London and end that firm's North American monopoly. But the second, more compelling story of The Birth of Black America traces the journey of Africans, showing how they established communities and the foundation for black culture and society that followed. The book also documents how the nation eventually wrestled with the issue of slavery, and looks at some of the ugly racist practices and legislation aimed at these African Americans. Everything from questions of lexicon to determining the exact size of the black population (through the clumsy census practices of the day) is examined, as well as many sordid events that followed. The Birth of Black America closely scrutinizes and evaluates a time and series of happenings about which far too many contemporary citizens know absolutely nothing.
Ron Wynn writes for the Nashville City Paper and other publications.