Family historian in Virginia traces ancestry from Angola, 1st African slaves in US
"I just believe the presence of my ancestors is with us," Wanda Tucker said.
It was the 400th commemoration ceremony of Africans arrival on U.S. soil at a small cemetery tucked in a residential neighborhood in Hampton, Virginia, which has been under the care of the Tucker family for years.
"Four hundred years ago, our family started building America, can I get an Amen?" said Wanda Tucker at a gathering of mostly Tucker family relatives, friends and local African-American elected officials.
According to the Tucker family history, in 1619 their relatives walked off the White Lion -- one of the first ships bringing slaves from Africa to colonial North America -- at Old Point Comfort, less than 10 miles away from the family cemetery.
The colonist John Rolfe, in 1619, documented the arrival of "20 and odd negroes," captured from the central African nation of Angola, who made the transatlantic journey to America aboard the White Lion.
Two of those Africans aboard that ship -- Antony and Isabella -- gave birth to a son, William Tucker, the first African baby to be baptized in America. The Tucker family believes William Tucker is their ancestor.
The family believes their descendants -- children and grandchildren of America's first slaves -- are buried in the cemetery, which is nestled squarely in between the homes of residents.
"I realized that my ancestors are here and the relevance of the cemetery in the larger narrative of African-American history," Wanda Tucker told ABC News.
The family historian recently returned from Angola and said the family can trace their ancestry to the central African country.
"I just believe the presence of my ancestors is with us, and that also contributes to the sacredness of the space for me," she said.
It was just a few years ago that the family used ground penetrating radar to conduct a scan of the cemetery and discovered more than a hundred unmarked graves of Africans -- more than they initially thought were buried there.
And when one of the grave keepers decided to cut down some shrubs and overgrown parts of the cemetery, they found a skull belonging to an unidentified African female.
"We took it to the state archaeologist for examination and that caused us to dig deeper," said Vincent Tucker, president of The William Tucker 1624 Society.
The family believes there could be even more buried in the cemetery that they're unaware of. The cemetery is surrounded by private houses on all but one side. The family also doesn't know if William Tucker is buried in the cemetery.
The nationwide commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Africans arrival has put the Tucker family back in the spotlight. They made the connection to William Tucker through an oral historian who has since passed away and can only date their lineage back to the early 1800s.
"There are those who say that our story is not authentic it's not real and it's not true," said Wanda Tucker. "But I have to argue this: they have not proven otherwise."
And as the Tucker family's place in history was in the spotlight in Hampton, there was a new discovery in Jamestown, Virginia: the home where a female slave known as Angela may have once resided.
Researchers are searching for clues about the life Angela, also known as Angelo, may have led. She's the only documented slave known by name that was carried to the United States aboard another early slave ship, The Treasurer.
"Archaeology is the buried truth and you can't argue with a forensic crime scene, right?" asked David Givens, senior archaeologist at Jamestown Rediscovery. "And I say 400 years ago crime happened and our goal is to elevate that story and talk about how we start as a nation."