In honor of Aug. 23, the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, a Virginia-based organization will recognize the 399th anniversary of the arrival of the first documented Africans in English North America, part of the state’s 2019 commemoration ceremonies.
The organization, American Evolution, writes that African culture has had an indelible and enduring influence on the trajectory of Virginia and American history, which continually inspires the dedication and remembrance to those individuals.
“The annual remembrance of the arrival of the first Africans offers an opportunity to elevate the untold and under-told stories of the first Africans in English North America, and challenge inaccurate historical narratives about 399 years of the African American experience in America,” said Kathy Spangler, executive director of American Revolution and the 2019 commemoration events.
In August 1619, a ship called the White Lion forcibly landed “20 and odd” enslaved Africans at Point Comfort, Virginia, which is present-day Hampton. These individuals were brought to the colony in bondage from the kingdom of Ndonga, which historians believe is present-day Angola.
Although slavery was not officially acknowledged by Virginia laws until 1661, the first Africans were treated as slaves and were traded to the colonists for provisions, according to American Evolution.
The organization will host more than 20 events, programs and educational initiatives related to the commemoration over the next 18 months.
The commemoration invites everyone to attend its events, engage on social media and learn about the key 1619 Virginia events that brought African, Native American and European cultures together 400 years ago, and explore the impact of these pivotal events in the creation of modern day United States.
American Evolution and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam recently announced the launch of the Virginia History Trails mobile app, which includes the locations and descriptions of more than 400 stories and 200 historic sites, as well as 20 thematic trails across the commonwealth.
The featured stories and sites highlight important African-American history.
From March 19-21, the Virginia Council of Churches and the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University will hold a conference focusing on “The Missiology of Jamestown 1619 and Its Implications” to explore longstanding assumptions related to Christian mission.
It will focus on religion in 1619 Jamestown, its impact on Native Americans and Africans, and the origins of a religious and culturally diverse 21st-century America.
“African-American, European and Virginia Indian cultures collided in 1619 Virginia and set our nation on a course towards the ideals of Democracy, Diversity and Opportunity,” Spangler said. “Over the next year and half, the 2019 commemoration is convening events, scholarship, educational initiatives, performances and exhibitions that examine and lift up the African-American experience as we work to tell a more inclusive and authentic narrative of Virginia and America’s history.”