By Calvin Pearson | on 16 August 2019
The City of Hampton, VA, Project 1619 Inc., and other community partners have organized a series of Events at Fort Monroe, VA on August 23-25, 2019 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Africans being captured and brought to English occupied North America 1619. The enslavement of Africans in what would become the United States of America is a stain on it's soul. Below is a press release describing the circumstances surrounding the capture of the first Africans and why it shsould be commemorated.
Press Release/Editorial/Opinion from Project 1619 Inc.
400th African Landing Commemoration
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. From the United States Declaration of Independence, Adopted on July 4th 1776. With this declaration the thirteen independent sovereign states, ratified their independence from British rule. But it did not provide independence to the millions of slaves still being held in bondage. Their freedom and independence would be delayed another 109 years until the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime in 1865.
In 2019 these United States of America will commemorate the 400th Anniversary of the first landing of Africans brought to English occupied North America. On August 25, 1619, the first ship carrying captured Africans landed at Point Comfort (today’s Fort Monroe) in Hampton, Virginia. From that perilous landing, their presence has had a profound impact on the cultural manifest of Americas past and still impacts the socioeconomic and political disparities facing families of color today. In 2019 our nation and other countries around the world will collectively come together to commemorate the 400th Anniversary of this dreadful but historic event.
The first Africans did not arrive at Ellis Island, Plymouth Rock, or Jamestown, but arrived as captured human cargo on the high seas during the transatlantic slave trade. In August 1619, the English privateer ship the White Lion, landed at Point Comfort carrying the first 20 and odd Africans who had been captured from the slave ship San Juan Bautista in a fierce battle in the Bay of Campeche in the Gulf of Mexico. In consort with the White Lion was another English privateer ship, the Treasurer, who also took enslaved Africans. This was the first time a privateer or pirate ship had unknowingly mistaken a Spanish galleon ship for a slave ship whose primary cargo was human Africans. The first enslaved Africans who were brought to Point Comfort were not immigrants, but their landing was one of the most significant events in our country’s history. The first generations of Africans brought to Virginia were captured from the villages of Ndongo, Congo and Kabasa in the Angola region of Africa. Those first enslaved Africans were skilled farmers, herders, blacksmiths and artisans. They had the perfect skill set needed for the colonies to survive. Along with their culture, they also brought many ideas and innovations including food, crop cultivation, music and dance. It was their unbridled spirit and labor that helped build Hampton, Fort Monroe, and America, but they toiled through many generations of unpaid bondage, civil unrest, and the march for civil rights, before their descendants became legal citizens.
Those first twenty and odd enslaved Africans who arrived at Point Comfort marked the beginning of 246 years of unpaid servitude. For the first two generations from 1619 until 1661 many of the enslaved Africans were granted their freedom and in some cases were able to purchase the freedom of their relatives, start their own homesteads, and employ indentured servants. Yet others were held in bondage for life or until 1661 when Virginia established a law legalizing lifelong servitude of all un-free Africans.
Slavery is the biggest human transgression perpetrated by one human being on another in America. And through it all their descendents have endured with dignity the cruelest barbaric acts of enslavement. They have endured through the Jim Crow era, segregation, and the disparity of basic human rights. The chains of slavery have now become the unfair prison sentences for minor crimes where other ethnic groups receive less or no prison time. The chains of slavery have now become racial profiling where you can get stopped merely because the color of your skin or arrested for a crime you did not commit. The chains of slavery are now the disparity of young brown and black people not being able to get a quality education or a job because of the social or financial conditions of their living environment. People of color are being moved out of urban communities because of gentrification and may never return. Young girls are being captured and forced into human trafficking and the sex slave industry.
Two of the original Africans who arrived on the White Lion in 1619 at Point Comfort were Antoney and Isabella. In January 1625, according to the Virginia census, those two Africans, Isabella, Antonio and their son William were living in present day Hampton in Capt. William Tucker’s home, who was the commander at Point Comfort (today’s Fort Monroe). Their son William is the first documented African child born in English North America. He was baptized on January 4, 1624.
In 2019 America and cities throughout Africa will commemorate the tragedy of slavery but will also recognize the contributions that people of color have sacrificed through adversity to make America the great nation it is. As people converge on Hampton and Fort Monroe, let’s make 2019 a year of reconciliation and healing. Let’s join together to appreciate our differences and diversity that makes us all Americans. Commemoration activities will take place in Hampton, Virginia August 23-25, 2019. We invite you to join us. For more information go to www.firstafricanlanding.com.
Calvin Pearson, Founder
Project 1619 Inc.