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Virginia to Commemorate Landing of Enslaved Africans

A multi-day series of events centered around the 400th anniversary of the first landing of enslaved African Americans at Point Comfort in Hampton, Virginia, have been slated for Aug. 23-25 in nearby Jamestown.
The events, presented by Virginia’s 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution, in partnership with Fort Monroe Authority, Fort Monroe National Monument, and the City of Hampton, will also feature a commemorative ceremony, preview of the new Fort Monroe Visitor and Education Center, Black Cultural tours, living history demonstrations, storytelling, and youth and musical performances, as well as group displays by the U.S. Colored Troops.
“The First African Landing Commemorative Weekend will be a pilgrimage for African Americans and all Americans who are interested in learning about the heritage, struggles and triumphs of the first Africans who were brought to the shores of Point Comfort,” said Terry Brown, first African American superintendent at Fort Monroe National Monument. “African American history is complicated, but it’s important for us as Americans to examine the events of the past and understand the stories of slavery, resistance and emancipation and the impact on our nation.”
The arrival of “20 and odd” African men and women at Point Comfort in late August 1619, was a pivotal moment in the nation’s history, as recorded by English colonist John Rolfe.
Stolen by English privateers from a Spanish slave ship and brought to Point Comfort on a ship called the White Lion, these natives of west central Africa are believed to have been traded for food and supplies. They were the first Africans to be brought to English North America. The site of the ship’s arrival is the present site of Fort Monroe National Monument in Hampton, Virginia, Rolfe’s notes revealed.
Dr. Cassandra Newby-Alexander, professor of History, dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Norfolk State University and co-chair of the 2019 Commemoration First Africans Committee, said the landing of the first recorded Africans at Point Comfort in 1619 marked the moment African culture became an integral part of American culture and an indelible influence on the development of America. “The early relationship between the unfree Africans and English in the Virginia colony is complicated, yet their forced arrival set into motion an important African imprint on every aspect of American society and culture, said Newby-Alexander. “Moreover, Africans’ fight for freedom, equality, and inclusion was transformative because it began our nation on its journey toward racial equality – something we are still working toward today.”
Hampton Mayor Donnie Tuck added that Fort Monroe was the arrival site of the first recorded Africans. “On the same site, the first move toward emancipation occurred when Frank Baker, James Townsend and Shepard Mallory sought sanctuary during the Civil War,” said Tuck. “At Hampton University, the education of newly emancipated individuals began in 1868 and 150 years later is going strong. It is the legacy of the human computers like Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughn who helped to set the national course to the stars through their work at NASA Langley, and that of so many more individuals who helped to shape our nation,” Tuck continued. “While we do not celebrate the reason the first Africans arrived on our shores, we marvel at how far we have come during this 400-year journey, and maintain hope for a future of unity and equality.”
For more information about the 2019 Commemoration of the First African Landing in Hampton, Va., please visit: firstafricanlanding.com

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