The 400th Commemoration of the arrival of Africans in the first permanent English Colony in North America highlights the perseverance of Africans from 1619 to the present. The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) views the 400th Commemoration as an event of historic importance for all people, but especially those of African descent.
The story of Africans in the English Colony of Virginia begins with the founding of the Colony in 1607, under the rule of King James I of England. In August of 1619, the first African men and women arrived by ship at Point Comfort, present-day Fort Monroe, in Hampton, Virginia. This fact is known because John Rolfe, Secretary and Recorder General of Virginia, recorded the arrival of “20 and odd Negroes” in 1619. Some of the Africans became part of the Jamestown Settlement in Virginia. America places historic importance on the Jamestown Settlement as the cornerstone of the United States.
Forced migration of Africans to the Virginia colony in 1619 reminds us that they came before the Mayflower, which arrived in 1620. By this commemoration, ASALH pays tribute to 400 years of the creative industry of a people who were kidnapped and brought unwillingly to these shores and who, with resolute African spirit, fought for human dignity and equality.
There have been several commissions created to commemorate this 400-year journey including the Federal legislation introduced by Congressman Bobby Scott titled “The 400 Years of African American History Commission Act,” H.R. 1242 – 115. ASALH has, in turn, established The 400th Commemoration Committee.