Jamestown was a first and great societal and communal experiment.
It was the foundation for America and its way of life. It was about how to survive in a New World, how to go to work and support your family and help your neighbors who couldn’t help themselves.
It was about self-determination, and the dangers of “it takes a village.”
If Jamestown didn’t survive, the Mayflower may not have happened, and the western United States might still be speaking Spanish. And Hawai’i may still be its own island kingdom.
No matter which side of the history you are on – whether all this stuff is good or bad for the country and whether it is a beacon of hope for others or just another imperialist and oppressive nation – there is very little question that Jamestown set the tone for everything that came after.
But the history of Jamestown has been fractured in the last 400 years. Some of what happened have been interpreted, rather than reported, and we may need to find multiple sources to get the full picture of what it was like.
Fortunately, we have compiled a short list of movies and documentaries that can help tell the story of Jamestown and present it in a factual and objective way as possible. Grab your popcorn and open your minds to education!
Yes, this is the 1995 Disney animated cartoon film featuring Pocahontas, the Native American woman who encountered the settlers at Jamestown and helped the new arrivals cope with new surroundings and new neighbors who were already in the neighborhood. While specific details are left out or changed for the film, the overarching facts about Jamestown are included, from John Smith and Pocahontas as characters to the ship and the rationale for the settlement. A good jumping-off point for young school-age children.
Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower
While the History Channel made a documentary about the Mayflower’s trip across the Atlantic more than a decade after Jamestown was settled, this can give viewers an idea of what life was like for the Jamestown settlers as they traveled across the Atlantic and first made landfall. After all, transportation options did not improve very quickly in the 17th century, so the latter travelers did not sail in the lap of luxury relative to the Jamestowners. This video follows the Pilgrims from their original decision to leave England, across the Atlantic, then to the early days of settling in Plymouth, Massachusetts. What these Pilgrims went through could easily be transferred 15 years earlier to the original settlers down in Virginia.
These two films would be great offerings to understand a little bit more about Jamestown, some of the hardships experienced by the settlers and the sacrifices they made in order to settle a new territory that would become the richest nation in the world with the most diverse opportunities for all. It’s always good to see that America wasn’t always the land of milk and honey.