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America's Four Hundredth Anniversary Committee: Commemoration of the Roanoke Voyages
n the 1980s, North Carolina held a multifaceted celebration to mark the four hundredth anniversary of the first English efforts to colonize the New World. The attempts by the English, carried out between 1584 and 1587, became known as the Roanoke Voyages. In 1955 Lindsay C. Warren, a resident of the Outer Banks and a former congressman, proposed "a national or even a world's fair or exposition" in 1985 to commemorate the English landing at Roanoke Island in 1585. In 1956 legislators passed a resolution that called on the governor to appoint an America's Four Hundredth Anniversary Commission, but Gov. Luther H. Hodges never appointed members to that board.
In 1973 the General Assembly repealed the 1955 resolution and created America's Four Hundredth Anniversary Committee (AFHAC). The committee's charge was to advise the secretary of Cultural Resources on such a commemoration. Gov. James B. Hunt Jr. appointed members to AFHAC in 1978. A number of prominent North Carolinians served on the committee over the years, perhaps the best known being playwright Paul Green and actor Andy Griffith. The American Quadricentennial Corporation, a nonprofit support organization, raised private funds for the four-hundredth anniversary commemoration. AFHAC attempted to create local committees in every county. Quadricentennial celebrations took place throughout the state. In Rutherford County, reenactments of American Indian and Elizabethan culture took place as part of a "First Colonie Faire" and, in Surry County, regional history was tied to the celebration of the Great Wagon Road.
The first of the sanctioned events took place in April 1984 in Plymouth, England; it commemorated the departure of the expedition led by Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe. In July 1984 Princess Anne, daughter of Queen Elizabeth II, participated in an event at Roanoke Island recalling the landing of that expedition. Other commemorations honored the Ralph Lane and John White colonies. The final observances took place in August 1987 to mark the anniversaries of Manteo's baptism and Virginia Dare's birth.
The Department of Cultural Resources in June 1984 sponsored the British American Festival at Duke University. In 1985 an exhibition titled Raleigh & Roanoke premiered at the North Carolina Museum of History after first opening at the British Library in London. The first international exhibition for the museum included Elizabethan-era items, among them original John White drawings. A scholarly conference coincided with the exhibit opening. The Elizabeth II, replica of a vessel used by the colonists, was constructed in Manteo and launched in 1983. The ship visited several locales along the North Carolina coast during the quadricentennial. Presently the ship is an integral attraction at the Roanoke Island Festival Park in Manteo. Archaeologists searched for the "Cittie of Raleigh" but focused more effort on researching Algonquian Indian culture. The AFHAC, in cooperation with Archives and History's Historical Publications Section, issued a number of books and pamphlets for both scholarly and general audiences during the commemoration. Brochure sets were donated to schools and libraries. The cornerstone of the quadricentennial publications program, according to the final committee report, was the new edition of the John White drawings.
Dennis F. Daniels
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