Icon At The Crossroads Of Race And Sex
The legend of Pocahontas has enjoyed wide
American culture in a number of versions and in various genres since the
century. Although little is known with any certainty about Pocahontas, stories,
images, poems, songs, and dramas have been produced on all levels of
the Indian Princess. As the facts concerning her history are scant, it may be
helpful to review some of the key events of her life,
ones that in resurface in the multivarious interpretations
of her story.
Birth of Matoaka, later nicknamed
wanton" or "little plaything"). She is the eldest daughter of the
powerful Indian leader, Powhatan.
She saves Captain John Smith from
execution, thus initiating a friendly relationship with him and other Jamestown settlers.
Pocahontas captured by the English captain Samuell Argyll and used as a
political pawn in his
dealings with her father.
Pocahontas converts to Christianity
marries John Rolfe,
(though she may have married a man of her tribe at an earlier date)
and their son, Thomas, is born the next year.
To great fanfare, Pocahontas travels to England as the "Indian Princess" and receives an audience with King James I and Queen Charlotte. Simon Van de Passe executes the only portrait done in her lifetime. See the center thumbnail at the top of this page, as well as the two later versions on either side.
She dies, and is buried at Gravesend
Interpretations and Readings
Original Design [Art section] by John Blackburn.
New Architecture and Scans by Kendra Hamilton and Tuomi Forrest.
'Home Page','Interpretive Strategies', 'Columbus', and 'Sectionalism' by Forrest. 'Malleability', 'Hampton', 'Racial Purity' and 'Further Reading' by Hamilton.
The American Studies Group @ The University of Virginia