On Wednesday, December 4, 2019, Virginia's 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution, will host the final event of the 2019 Commemorative year, the 400th Commemorative Ceremony of the First Official English Thanksgiving from 2:00 – 3:00 PM ET at Jamestown Settlement. 

In December 1619, a group of English settlers arrived safely in Virginia and held a ceremony of Thanksgiving which was to be observed "annually and perpetually" thereafter. The Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts didn't host their first Thanksgiving until 1620. Before Europeans arrived in the New World, Native American peoples marked successful harvests with feasts and communal celebration. While these events are reminiscent of America's modern Thanksgiving, they were traditionally spontaneous affairs, as opposed to regularly scheduled celebrations.

Historians note that in the early days, the celebration of Thanksgiving was strictly a religious experience, focused entirely on prayer. It was a solemn affair, not a festival of food. At the behest of written orders given by the Berkeley Company to Captain John Woodlief, it was declared that the English settlers' arrival must "be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God."

This Thanksgiving-inspired public programming will be free and open to the public. Details include:

  • Invocation: The Reverend Catherine Tyndall Boyd, Rector, St. Martin's Episcopal Church, Williamsburg, Virginia
  •  Reflections of Virginia's Three Original Cultures:
    • Stephen R. Adkins, Sr., Chief of the Chickahominy Indian Tribe
    • H. Graham Woodlief, Descendent of Captain John Woodlief
    • Dr. Rex Ellis, Emeritus Associate Director for Curatorial Affairs at the National Museum of African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian Institution
  • Special Remarks: Pamela Northam, First Lady of Virginia
  • Featured Speaker: Michelle Gielan, Executive Producer "The Happiness Advantage" on PBS
  • Benediction: The Reverend Jennifer Andrews-Weckerly, Rector, Hickory Neck Episcopal Church, Toano, Virginia
  • Musical Close: Jamestown High School Chamber Choir


400th Anniversary Commemorative Ceremony of the First Official English Thanksgiving in North America

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

2:00 – 3:00 PM ET

Jamestown Settlement, Williamsburg, Virginia


Speakers available to the media include:

  • Kathy Spangler, Executive Director, 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution
  • Dr. Rex M. Ellis, Former Associate Director for Curatorial Affairs at the National Museum of African American History and Culture
  • Stephen Adkins, Chief of the Chickahominy Tribe
  • H. Graham Woodlief, President of the Virginia Thanksgiving Festival and Descendent of Captain John Woodlief


Media who would like to attend, please contact Elizabeth Bement, elizabeth.bement@finnpartners.com; P: 703-915-5830  


The 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution highlights events that occurred in Virginia in 1619 that continue to influence America today. Featured programs, events and legacy projects will position Virginia as a leader in education, tourism and economic development. American Evolution commemorates the ongoing journey toward the key ideals of democracy, diversity and opportunity. Dominion Energy is an American Evolution Founding Partner and Altria Group and TowneBank are Virginia Colony Partners.

For more information about the American Evolution's 2019 upcoming events, programs and educational initiatives, visit: https://www.americanevolution2019.com/



Elizabeth Bement  
2019 Commemoration 
P: 703-915-5830 

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