By AFRO Staff

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry of the Episcopal Church and Bishop W. Darin Moore of the AME Zion Church are among clergy leaders across the country inviting their memebr to engage in a national action in rememberance and honor the first enslaved Africans in America. The petition is for churches to toll their bells at 3 p.m., for one minute on Sunday, Aug. 25.

As the landing point for the first enslaved Africans in the English colonies in 1619 and the site of the first emancipation policy decision during the Civil War, Fort Monroe marks both the beginning and the end of slavery in the United States.

Epsicopal Bishop Michael Curry (left) served the St. James Episcopal Church in Baltimore for many years. The national landmark of the “rst recorded arrival of Africans to the New World in 1619 (right). (Photos: Courtesy and NNPA Newswire)

“I’m inviting us as The Episcopal Church to join in this commemoration as part of our continued work of racial healing and reconciliation,” said Curry. “We can join together with people of other Christian faiths and people of all faiths to remember those who came as enslaved, who came to a country that one day would proclaim liberty. And so we remember them and pray for a new future for us all.”

This national bell ringing is among the Healing Day events being held at Fort Monroe National Monument to commemorate the 400th anniversary of that landing. 

The event will feature a National Park Service Town Hall, libation ceremony, blessing of the land, a tribute to the ancestors with a release of 400 butterflies, Ghanaian drumming, and a message from keynote speaker Michael Eric Dyson.

As recorded by English colonist John Rolfe, 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. 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.

That was the beginning of the slave trade in America.

This month, 400 years after that humiliating and disgraceful day, the city of Hampton will commemorate “African Landing Day.”

Beginning Aug. 23, the three-day commemoration, will include a host of special guests and a variety of history tours, education programs and special exhibits.

“I think history has done the African American a disservice because we have never been told what our real history was,” said retired Lt. Col. Claude Vann, the Hampton 2019 Commission co-chair. “One of the objectives we want to achieve is to correct history. 

“For the folks here at Hampton, particularly, we were taught that the first African landed in Jamestown. Well, that’s incorrect,” Vann said.

The commemoration kicks off on Friday, Aug. 23 at 12:00 p.m. at the Hampton Roads Convention Center where Byron Pitts of ABC Nightline, and formerly of CBS Evening News and 60 Minutes, will host the African-American Political Firsts Luncheon featuring panelists Kentucky Lt. Governor Jenean Hampton; L. Douglas Wilder, former governor of Virginia; U.S. Representative Bobby Scott (VA-3), and former mayor and North Carolina State Senator Howard Lee.

On Saturday, at 9:30 a.m. in Continental Park, Fort Monroe, the 2019 Commemoration of the First African Landing Ceremony will include remarks from CNN political contributor Van Jones and remarks and greetings from Virginia Governor Ralph Northam; U.S. Senator Mark Warner; U.S. Senator Tim Kaine; U.S. Representative Bobby Scott(VA-3), and Dr. Joseph Green, Jr., Chair of 400 Years of African American History Federal Commission.

The ceremony will feature African drumming and the I.C. Norcom High School Choir from Portsmouth, Va.

Following the ceremony from 11:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., there will be musical performances by Cheick Hamala Diabate, a GRAMMY-nominated World Music Artist; EMA Live, a billboard chart topping gospel group, RaJazz, 2019 First African Landing Commemoration Concert, Hampton Coliseum, Common, with Sounds of Blackness, Day of Healing and Gospel Music Festival.

“From a historian’s perspective, we hope people will take away that all of this wasn’t an accident,” said Beth Austin of the Hampton History Museum, who conducted much of the research. “It happened in a global context both in terms of the wider Atlantic world in 1619 and it had the enormous global impact. The slave trade and the practice of slavery in America impacted the New World and Africa and it’s had a very long-term and profound legacy.”

Commemorative Events 2019:

First Africans in Virginia: Impact and Legacy Exhibition

February – August 2019

Virginia Historical Society

Richmond, Va.

This exhibition will encourage viewers to connect their own historical and contemporary relationships with race and the legacy of American slavery.

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Fort Monroe Visitor and Education Center Dedication Ceremony

Aug. 24, 2019

Fort Monroe, Hampton, Va.

The Fort Monroe Visitor and Education Center will tell the stories of Captain John Smith, the arrival of the first enslaved Africans and the culmination of 242 years of slavery as the first contrabands came to Fort Monroe and received their emancipation.

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1619: Making of America Summit

September 27-28, 2019

Norfolk State University

Norfolk, Va.

This cultural event will begin with the exploration of the contributions and influences of the three founding cultures: African, Native American and English. This expanding cultural tapestry of our nation will be explored by celebrated scholars, artists, film makers, musicians and students throughout the nation.

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Customs, Cultures and Cuisine Festival

Nov. 8 – 10, 2019

Williamsburg, Va.

The event will honor the early beginnings of America with the three cultures present in 1619 Virginia.

For more information about the 2019 Commemoration of the First African Landing in Hampton, Va., visit