Partnerships played a vital role in the 2019 Commemoration as statewide initiatives brought a new appreciation of history to communities throughout Virginia. Over 300 partners created special programs to commemorate their connection to the events of 1619 and the themes of democracy, diversity, and opportunity over Virginia’s 400-year arc of history.

The programming framework of American Evolution provided organizations and every community across Virginia the opportunity to commemorate their own unique place in our shared history. To assist partners with promoting their events, an online statewide community calendar was available on the website.

Programming Cycles

Partners were encouraged to theme special events and other projects on three programming cycles introduced in 2019: Celebrate Virginia’s Changemakers; America: Made in Virginia; and Virginia’s Customs, Cultures, and Cuisine Festival.

Celebrate Virginia Changemakers

February- April 2019

To develop a more complete narrative of Virginia’s history, partners were encouraged to share the untold stories of citizens, past, and present who shaped or changed their community. Community partners designed new programs and aligned existing events during African-American History Month and Women’s History Month.

America: Made in Virginia

May-October 2019

Statewide partners promoted tourism by encouraging local organizations and individuals to engage with the Virginia History Trails app. Virginians were encouraged to explore the history in the Commonwealth and to be “a tourist in your own town.” The Wilderness Road Regional Museum in Pulaski County won the Virginia History Trails Summer Fun contest by receiving the most “likes” and “visits” on the app.

Virginia Customs, Cultures, and Cuisine Festival

November 2019

Americans from across the nation were invited to “Come Home to Virginia” to participate in events and special programs to celebrate 400 years of Virginia’s unique history and culture. The month-long festival, presented by TowneBank, fostered statewide participation and tourism with a variety of partner programs. Grant-supported community events were held statewide and included food and wine festivals, music festivals, new tours, and programming at historic sites, theater productions, barbecues, and more.


Take a look at the special events and other projects that took place during the commemoration through statewide partnerships.

Community Partnerships


In addition to participating in signature events, creating their own programs, and helping to promote Commemoration themes and activities, partners held private screenings of Evolution of America: 1619 to Today, a one-hour documentary that explores the significance of 1619, and hosted the traveling exhibition The Great Charter and the General Assembly: Founding a Legacy in 1619, highlighting the Great Charter of 1618. Partners also sold 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution merchandise in their gift shops.

2019 Commemoration Schools

An important element of statewide engagement, 1,450 schools, more than 4,000 teachers representing every school division in the Commonwealth, and numerous homeschoolers integrated “2019 spirit” ideas into their curriculum, projects, and programs during the 2018-2019 school year.  Planners presented a variety of suggested options for participation through an online and mailed resource kit with classroom resources designed to enhance student learning about the foundational events of 1619 Virginia and the themes of democracy, diversity, and opportunity.

OUR AMERICAN STORY: A Student Contest from American Evolution

In 2018, American Evolution collaborated with WHRO Public Media to offer a digital student contest for 8th to 12th graders who created artistic projects expressing their understanding of the themes of the commemoration – democracy, diversity, and opportunity – and how they relate to their lives today. Judges received submissions as far away as California and Maine. The Grand Prize went to “Shaping Diversity,” a video project about the Norfolk 17 by students from Matthew Fontaine Maury High School in Norfolk, Virginia. View the winning video here.

National Mock Election and Digital First Amendment Wall


The 2019 Commemoration collaborated with the UVA Center for Politics on two major civics initiatives that lead to a combined state and national audience of nearly 30,000 teachers and their students. The “National Mock Election” and a new digital “First Amendment Wall” brought history to life and created a way for students in middle and high school to interact with the 2019 Commemoration.

Higher Education Initiatives

Higher education institutions across the Commonwealth created events and special programming aligned with Commemoration themes and/or the historical events of 1619. Higher education partners included Christopher Newport University, George Mason University, James Madison University, Longwood University, University of Virginia, Norfolk State University, Old Dominion University, University of Lynchburg, University of Richmond, Marymount University, Thomas Nelson Community College, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Tech, Virginia Union University, Virginia Wesleyan University, and William & Mary.

Take Back the Spirit of Thanksgiving

Virginians and Americans were encouraged to remember the true meaning of Thanksgiving as a time for giving thanks, coming together, and taking care of family and neighbors. The campaign commemorated the First Official English Thanksgiving that occurred at Berkeley Hundred on December 4, 1619 and included partnerships with area food banks. The initiative launched on November 3, 2018 when American Evolution teamed up with Virginia Tech and its Athletics Department to announce the campaign during VT’s homecoming football game vs. Boston College. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam addressed the crowd in a pre-game video and shared the untold story about the first English Thanksgiving in North America.

1619 Society

The 1619 Society engaged a younger generation of Virginians in the Commemoration with regional events aligned with the state’s GO Virginia economic development initiative and encouraged emerging leaders to engage by identifying region-specific challenges and solutions. Meet-and-greet events featuring keynote speakers convened in Richmond, Fredericksburg, Wise, Danville, and Lynchburg.

Girl Scout Patch

The Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast created a special commemorative patch designed to help girls discover Virginia’s unique history and to learn new skills to help shape our future. Girl Scouts throughout Virginia engaged in special activities to receive the patch and participated in commemorative events such as the dedication of Voices from the Garden, the Virginia Women’s Monument on Capitol Square.

Reflections Photo Contest

The American EvolutionReflections” Photo Contest took place from October 17, 2019 to January 5, 2020, and offered a $3,000 prize to each winner in three categories: professional, organization, and amateur. The goals of the submissions included the collection of photographs and their background stories to document the important and historic impact of the 2019 Commemorative year, sharing of real-life images of participants engaging in the 2019 Commemoration events and initiatives, and expressions of what the 2019 Commemoration and its themes of democracy, diversity, and opportunity meant to individuals.

Virginia State Agencies

The assistance of Virginia State Agencies proved invaluable to the 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution.

  • Virginia Executive Institute (VEI) – 2017 participants suggested the creation of a Thanksgiving postcard to remind the nation that the First English Thanksgiving took place in Virginia. 

  • The Virginia Government Employees Association sponsored a state employee to attend the Global Pathfinder Summit, informed state employees of Commemoration events, and ensured state employee participation at public events.

  • ABC stores, DMV customer service offices, Department of General Services Capitol Square office buildings, VDOT rest stops, the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry, Virginia State Parks, Virginia Welcome Centers, and Virginia Employment Commission offices all partnered with the Commemoration to distribute branded posters, the 2019 Calendar of Events and Virginia History Trails brochures.  

  • Virginia Department of Transportation and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources placed special signage on the Virginia historic markers included in the Virginia History Trails app. 

  • Department of Human Resource Management reached out to state Human Resource Managers to encourage participation in the Women’s Achieve Summit.

  • Virginia Capitol Police and Virginia State Police worked with local law enforcement, the Secret Service, Homeland Security, National Park Service, EMS, and Fire Service to keep patrons safe during special events. The Capitol Police were actively involved in the commemoration events while they commemorated their own 401th Anniversary during 2019, thus preserving their distinction as America’s oldest law enforcement agency.

Virginia Capitol Police stand with the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation Honor Guard at the Official Launch event of the 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution in 2018.