I have always been fascinated by the story of Virginia Dare. She was the first English child to be born in the New World, in August 1587, shortly after the founding of what was to become known as “The Lost Colony” on Roanoke Island off the North Carolina coast. It says something about the mettle of those settlers that any pregnant woman would cross the Atlantic, the equivalent of a lunar expedition at that time—and Virginia’s mother Elenor was no less than the daughter of John White, the colony’s governor.
Perhaps you have to have a daughter yourself to appreciate what White must have felt three years later, when he finally returned from a supply trip to England, much delayed by the Spanish Armada. The smoke he took at first to be proof of occupation turned out to be brushfires. The settlement stood abandoned. Over a hundred settlers, his daughter and granddaughter among them, had vanished. He would never see them again. (For more information about the Lost Colony, click here…)
Today, Virginia Dare seems to be vanishing from American education too. But she was a fixture for earlier generations. Even Franklin D. Roosevelt felt free to give a speech commemorating the 350th anniversary of her birth. At one point, I planned to pay homage by bestowing her name on the heroine of a projected fictional concluding chapter in Alien Nation, about the flight of the last white family in Los Angeles. It seemed . . . symmetrical.
I was dissuaded.
But multiculturalists will be happy to know that there is always the possibility that the colonists survived, merging with the local Indians. There are fables that Virginia Dare as a young woman got involved in a love triangle with a warrior and an angry medicine man, who transformed her into a white doe. And there have been serious suggestions that The Lost Colony is the answer to the historical problem of the Lumbee Indians of Robeson County, North Carolina, an English-speaking group of unclear origin.
(Anthropologists call such groups “tri-racial isolates.” Significant of the times, and perhaps of federal subsidies, the Lumbees seem recently to have been emphasizing their claim to pure Indian status. For example, click here. For more on the white doe legend, click here.)
So Virginia Dare could be symbolic of the coming racial nirvana that immigration enthusiasts are forced to start fantasizing about when you compel them to look at the statistical consequences of current policy.
Or perhaps not. The actress Heather Locklear (Melrose Place, etc.) is claimed as a prominent Lumbee. But if, through some miracle of genetic recombination, Virginia Dare is reborn in Ms. Locklear’s beautiful face, John White might well have recognized her.
However, you can sometimes see them naively reported in the local press. Thus Long Island’s Southampton Press (Donna Giacontieri, Is Town Seal Offensive? September 24, 1999) has carried a story about a local version of the Virginia Dare phenomenon: the local “Anti-Bias Task Force” called on the town to abolish its seal, which depicts a Pilgrim and the words “First English settlement in the State of New York.”
The grounds: it “features an offensive representation of one gender, one race and one historical period . . .”
“One historical period . . .”?
Yeah. It’s called America.