Fort Monroe commemorates 400th anniversary of first enslaved Africans in English North America


HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — Throughout Black History Month, 10 On Your Side is telling hidden histories — stories that have gone untold in our communities for far too long.

This year marks the 400th commemoration of the first enslaved Africans brought to English North America. And, it happened in Hampton Roads.

In 1619, about 20 africans were brought against their will to Point Comfort, where Fort Monroe is located today. 

Kara Dixon spoke with Calvin Pearson, founder of Project 1619, at the site where a historical marker now stands.

“What was going through their minds arriving at a place they didn’t know where they were? Arriving at a destination where they didn’t know where their future would be?” Pearson asked.

Pearson says he started Project 1619 to tell the true story about the arrival.

This commemoration will be not just about the arrival but 400 years of Black history, inventions, and achievement.

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“The commemoration is about education, understanding, healing, and reconciliation. We need everyone to understand that 400 years ago, our ancestors were brought here in chains and against their will. But, their sacrifice over the past 245 years of free bondage created a country that’s one of the greatest in the world,” he said.

Fort Monroe will honor the commemoration through a number of programs, activities, and ceremonies throughout the year.

Park Superintendant Terry Brown hopes that everyone can come out and learn from it.

“What I’m really aiming for is for someone to come into this space and be proud of where they came from. Yes, it’s been a tough journey but I want them to walk away from this saying wow, look at how far we’ve come,” he said.

Brown says it’s not just an African American story but an American story for everyone.

Pearson says it’s one that should be told.

“It’s a story we should not be ashamed of. It’s a story of our ancestors, our descendants. One everyone should recognize the transgressions of one people. One that should not be repeated,” he said.

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