Last time the Queen visited, 50 years ago, the ugly side of colonialism's legacy was easily hidden. Today, that is impossible
As for the anniversary of Jamestown itself, the word celebration has been banned. Instead we have "America's Anniversary Weekend", in the hope that what sounds like a wholesome family outing will create the right melting pot mood. James Earl Jones has duly been invited to perform, Chaka Kahn to sing, and the Richmond Indigenous Gourd Orchestra (who grow their own instruments) to play.
As a result, a theme that is not usually much in evidence around the time of national anniversaries has made an unexpected appearance in Virginia: history. There has been an outpouring of books (to which I have contributed), films and articles about those first English settlers. The result has been a profound shift of understanding--unseating, at least for the moment, those pious latecomers the Pilgrim Fathers (the Mayflower arrived in North America 13 years after the Jamestown settlers) from their privileged perch. Despite its faults--perhaps because of them--Jamestown has, at last, emerged as the birthplace of America.