Queen Elizabeth II arrived Thursday for the commemoration of Jamestown’s 400th anniversary and praised the cultural changes that have occurred in the 50 years since she last visited America’s first permanent English settlement.
In 1957, when the queen helped Virginia mark the anniversary of its colonial founding, it was an all-white affair in a state whose government was in open defiance of a 1954 Supreme Court order to desegregate public schools.
“Over the course of my reign and certainly since I first visited Jamestown in 1957, my country has become a much more diverse society just as the commonwealth of Virginia and the whole United States of America have also undergone a major social change,” the queen said in a speech to the Virginia General Assembly in Richmond, the first stop on her visit.
“The melting pot metaphor captures one of the great strengths of your country and is an inspiration to others around the world as we face the continuing social challenges ahead.”
Hundreds of people stood in lines for hours in a cool drizzle, some since dawn, to enter the grounds of the freshly refurbished 219-year-old Capitol.
Inside the Capitol, the queen met briefly with the lead construction worker on a $105 million, two-year Capitol renovation project, with high school student leaders and with 100- year-old Oliver W. Hill.
Hill is a civil rights attorney whose litigation helped bring about the 1954 Supreme Court decision outlawing racial segregation in public schools.
Hill greeted the queen in the rotunda of the Capitol that once was the seat of Confederate government. He said later he was pleased she noticed the social changes he helped broker.