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Starr Center for the

Study of the American Experience

“‘At a Given Signal’: The Powhatan ‘Uprising’ of 1622” James Rice, Patrick Henry Fellow Talk

Date: 4:30pm EDT September 4, 2014

New Patrick Henry Fellow James Rice sheds light on the “Powhatan Uprising,” of 1622.  Book signing to follow.

In his most recent book, historian James D. Rice energetically relates a series of dramatic events in colonial Virginia that presaged the eventual tragic fate of Native Americans. In the followup, Dr. Rice will shed new light on the “Powhatan Uprising” of 1622, revealing new insights on this pivotal event in American history nearly 400 years ago.

On the morning of March 22, 1622, Powhatan Indians living within, visiting, and traveling through the scattered settlements of Jamestown colony launched a coordinated attack against the English. By the end of the day they had killed roughly a third of the colonists, leaving fewer than 800 survivors in a region that still contained over 20,000 Native Americans. The colonists considered abandoning Jamestown, but instead rallied to defeat the Powhatans over the course of a ten-year-long war. Often called the “Powhatan Uprising,” this event looms large in U.S. history textbooks and of historians’ accounts of early Virginia – but mostly for the wrong reasons. Dr. Rice’s lecture will show that the key to understanding the “Uprising” and its long-term significance for American history lies in the complex relationships between the Powhatan chiefdom and the numerous other Native American nations of the Chesapeake Bay region.


James Rice is Professor of History at SUNY Plattsburgh, where he teaches courses on Colonial America, Native America, and the American Revolution.


  • Ph.D., University of Maryland, College Park, 1994.

  • B.A., Colorado College, 1985.

Teaching Areas

  • Early America.

  • Atlantic history.

  • Native America/First Nations.

  • Historical methodology.

Research Areas

  • Native America: An Environmental History (under contract, Cambridge University Press).

  • The Powhatan Uprising of 1622 (book in progress)

  • “The Seventeenth Century,” In W. Fitzhugh Brundage, ed., The History of the American South (University of North Carolina Press; in preparation).

Selected Recent Publications

  • “Rethinking ‘The American Paradox’: Bacon’s Rebellion, Indians, and the U.S. History Survey.” In Susan Sleeper Smith, Nancy Shoemaker, Jean O’Brien, Juliana Barr, and Scott Stevens, eds., Why You Can’t Teach U.S. History Without American Indians(University of North Carolina Press, forthcoming).

  • “The Second Anglo-Powhatan War”. In Matthew Gibson, ed., Encyclopedia Virginia (forthcoming)

  • “Paramount Chiefdoms.” In Joseph C. Miller, ed., The Princeton Companion to Atlantic History (Princeton University Press, 2014).