A Macacan history lesson

Four centuries before S.R. Sidarth delivered the Senate to the Democrats, East Indians had already arrived in Virginia.

Published May 15, 2007 6:22PM (EDT)

Less than a decade after the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock, at least one "East Indian" had already arrived in Jamestown, Va.

East Indians are the real thing, as opposed to Native American Indians, who, of course, were residing in the general neighborhood of what became Jamestown well before any Pilgrims began snooping around up north. The consistently wonderful Sepia Mutiny takes the opportunity of the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown to remind us that when Virginia Sen. George Allen told S.R. Sidarth, "Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia," he was only about four centuries late in rolling out the red carpet.

No wonder he lost the election.

The revelation that there was an East Indian in Jamestown named "Tony," who was probably an indentured servant to Capt. George Menefie, an English merchant who settled in Jamestown in the 1620s, comes by way of an article in Indolink that rounds up some fascinating primary source material documenting the arrival of the earliest immigrants from South Asia to make it to the New World.

At about the same time that men like Menefie were homesteading Virginia, the East India Co. was just getting started in India. And while there were no H1-B visas or globe-spanning digital networks to aid labor mobility in those days, the British Empire could still get the job done, albeit a bit more slowly than is customary now.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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