Sunday, 18 August 2019


I can vaguely recall learning about the birth of Virginia Dare, born on this day in the ill-fated Roanoke Colony of the Carolinas, in history class—but fortunately was spared the cult-like symbolism attached to the first English settler born on the North America continent in the weirdly off-putting mythology that the USA defends as foundational—and permissive of its civilising settler self-portrayal. In the ensuing four hundred years, the birth and speculative fate of this toddler has been evoked—especially virulently from the 1920s onward, by groups arguing against universal suffrage, proponents for segregation and strict limitations on immigration and white nationalism.
Coincidentally (perhaps a device of the same myth-building), Dare’s grandfather who set off to England on a supply-run in winter of that same year was delayed until 1590 due to the Anglo-Spanish War and discovered an abandoned but undamaged settlement, returning on Dare’s third birthday. There was no sign of struggle with only the title inscription appearing on the column of the colony’s fort with “Cro” carved in a nearby tree. Nor did I realise that the desire to reframe and resolve the mystery in a favourable, flattering way was so strong that an elaborate hoax was conducted in the late 1930s with forged artefacts—so called Dare Stones—recovered that supposedly continued the saga, savages responsible for most of the colonists’ deaths and through a convoluted tale (the English likely assimilated with the indigenous population), requited vengeance. Researchers from the Smithsonian initially believed that the stones were authentic records. Though later recanted and shown to be fakes (see also here and here), some wearingly still cling to the original finding.