Support The Initiatives of Project 1619 to honor the arrival of the first Africans brought to English occupied North America.
Use PayPal above or send tax-deductible donation to Project 1619 Inc. PO Box 1233, Hampton, VA 23661
In the early 1600’s English Settlers arrived in Virginia as indentured servants. They had contracts that required them to typically work for seven years before gaining their freedom.
In 1619 the first Africans who were captured from Angola
were taken to Point Comfort, today’s Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia. They were sold for food. Slavery was not legal
in the colony when they arrived and would not become legal until 1661. So how were the first 20 and Odd Africans treated? They were treated as indentured
servants but without a written contract. Because they did not have a contract
their freedom was at the mercy of their plantation owner. Most of the first
Africans had to work 15-20 years before their freedom was granted. Once their freedom was granted they were able
to start their own homesteads, marry white and Native Americans, purchase the
freedom of their family relatives, own land, and enjoy the fruits of freedom.
The first 40 years in Virginia was not typical of the next 200 years when
slavery became legal. Slavery is a stain on America’s soul, but let’s not
denigrate the legacy of Africans in America by calling them all slaves. Today
the descendants of those first Africans are proud of their heritage. Let’s promote 400 years of achievement. We
built this country.
First Africans in Virginia were not slaves.
Members of Project 1619 such as Calvin Pearson Founder, and Dr. Bill Wiggins has been teaching and educating people on the true history of Virginia’s first Africans since as early as 1973. There is an ongoing discussion in Virginia as to whether the first Africans who were brought here in 1619 were slaves or indentured. What is the definition of a slave? A person held in bondage for perpetuity with no chance of freedom. So to those historians and museums that are destined to denigrate a whole race of people by saying they were ALL slaves, I ask you this question? We know for a fact that in 1619 the institution of slavery in Virginia did not exist. The General Assembly did not codify into a law legal slavery until 1661. White indentured servants had a contract typically of 7 years. They had no free will. The first Africans did not have a contract but were treated as indentured servants. How do we know? Because most of the first Africans were eventually freed. From Isabella, Antony and William at present day Hampton, the Blizzards in present day Surry County, The Goins, Cornish, and Anthony Johnson and Mary in Isle of Wight County, and the Driggers and others at Piercey’ Plantation, they all were freed after 15-20 years of servitude. So the question is why do you keep perpetuating the false Jamestown narrative that they arrived at Jamestown first when John Rolfe documented they landed at Point Comfort and was sold for food. The White Lion never sailed to Jamestown to sell Africans because they sold them all at Point Comfort. Why do you keep saying they were all slaves when we can prove most of them were freed? From 1619 until 1661 Africans in Virginia were able to gain their freedom, own land, sell crops, purchase the freedom of their relatives, marry white and Native Americans, and own white and black indentured servants. Virginia’s history is unique because this is where the first Africans landed before slavery took hold. Our history does not compare to North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Texas where it is true that their Africans were chattel slaves. Why do we continue to allow others to define us and tell us who we were and are? “Until we tell our story, the history of Africans in America, will always glorify the slave master”.
Calvin Pearson, Founder of Project 1619 Inc. receives prestigious award from Alpha Phi Alpha.
On January 12, 2019, the Delta Beta Lambda Chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. presented to Mr. Calvin Pearson the Delta Beta Lambda Community Service Award for his outstanding research, foresight and leadership in promoting the history of the arrival of the first Africans in Colonial America. The breakfast was held at the Hampton Roads Convention Center in Hampton, VA before 1200 attendees.
October 15, 2018
African Landing Day and the 400th Landing Commemoration
In 1994, Project 1619, a grassroots organization began a national campaign to expose the true narrative of the landing of the first enslaved Africans brought to English occupied North America. On August 25, 1619, the first ship carrying enslaved Africans to the Colonial Colonies of English North America 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 social, economic 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 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 flood ways, crop cultivation, music and dance. It was their unbridled spirit and labor that helped build Hampton, Fort Monroe, America, and the White House, but they toiled through many generations of unpaid bondage servitude, 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 some 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.
Since 1994 members of Project 1619 Inc. have been the catalyst to change the narrative of the landing of the first Africans at Point Comfort in Colonial North America America. In 2008 they created African Landing Day in the City of Hampton to commemorate the landing of the first Africans in Virginia at Point Comfort. They have been the champions for exposing and promoting the true history of our ancestors. Slavery is an indelible stain on Americas sole. Slavery is the biggest human transgression perpetrated by one human being on another. And through it all their descendants 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 socio, financial and economic conditions of their living environment. Our people are being moved out of urban communities because of gentrification may never return. Our young girls are being captured and forced into human trafficking and the sex slave industry. Our young people are hooked on crack; heroin and opioids as a way to deal will deck of cards they have been dealt. When will it all end?
Two of the original Africans who arrived on the White Lion in 1619 at Point Comfort were Antony 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 this day of social media and greater historical enlightenment a new Ad hoc committee has been formed with historic educators, community organizers, pastors, and representatives from Africa. This new group is “ART 2063” (Africa Rising Together) that reflects the vision of creating One Africa. The goal of this new initiative is to create a global synergy to promote the landing of the first enslaved Africans in English North America and to support African Nations to come together as one undivided country. Slavery and the Middle Passage was an event of monumental proportion that not just affected North America but changed Africa forever. Capturing over 30 million Africans from West and East Africa, and killing millions more in battle, removed child bearing young women and African boys and men, that changed the dynamics of the African family forever.
Project 1619 invites you to come to Hampton, Virginia on August 23-25, 2019 to be a witness to the 400th Anniversary Commemoration. Walk on the hallowed grounds of your ancestors. Present day Fort Monroe in Hampton is ground zero for the landing of the first enslaved Africans. This is where the story of Africans in America began. On that unfaithful day on Tuesday August 25, 1619 two Africans, Isabella and Antony, captured from Angola, stepped off an English privateer on the land at Point Comfort to start a legacy and a 400 year odyssey to create a new home for generations of future descendants. Come to Hampton and be a part of history. For more information got www.project1619.org.
Calvin Pearson, Project 1619 Founder said “Transatlantic slave trade, just like the systematic elimination of the Native American Indian in the United States, and the Holocaust in Germany, are human tragedies that changed the world. We can not change history or the impact that it had on past generations. But we should always recognize and learn from the perils and transgressions of mankind’s inhumanity against one another".
African Landing Day Commemoration
On August 25th, 2018 over 300 people attended the annual commemoration to honor the arrival of the first enslaved Africans brought to English North America at present day Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia.
HIS dream lives on..........
"If the cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. Because the goal of America is freedom, abused and scorned tho' we may be, our destiny is tied up with America's destiny." — Martin Luther King
Support The Initiatives of Project 1619 to honor the arrival of the first Africans.
Use PayPal above or send tax-deductible donation to Project 1619 Inc. PO Box 1233, Hampton, VA 23661
Calvin Pearson with the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe at the Black History Month Reception at the Governors Mansion. February 2017.
We Did Not Land at Point Comfort, Point Comfort Landed On Us.
Visit the Smithsonian African Museum of History and Culture Their exhibit on the arrival of the first enslaved Africans brought to English North America acknowledges that the first Africans arrived at Point Comfort, present day Fort Monroe in Hampton, VA in August 1619.
Smithsonian Exhibit Above
Project 1619 Inc. was the first organization to expose the lie about the First Enslaved Africans arriving at Jamestown in 1619. In 1994 members of Project 1619 began the journey to dispel the lie and promote the fact that the first Africans arrived at Point Comfort, present day Fort Monroe in Hampton, VA., 30 miles downstream from Jamestown. The 20 and Odd Africans never made it to Jamestown. Isabel and Antoney stayed at Point Comfort as servants of Commander William Tucker. Three Africans were taken to present day Surry County. Fourteen were taken to Flowerdew Hundred Plantation in present day Charles City, and the remaining few were taken to James Citie. The ship carrying the first Africans never went to Jamestown. Project 1619 is the founder of African Landing Day held in the City of Hampton on each August 20th.
African Arrival Day at Fort Monroe, VA August 20, 2016
WE did not land at Point Comfort, Point Comfort landed on us.
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Pilgrimage to Point Comfort August 20, 2016
Pilgrimage to Point Comfort, the Africans first Hallowed Grounds in English North America. Join people from around the world as they journey to Point Comfort, today’s Fort Monroe in Hampton, VA., for the Annual Prayer of Reconciliation and Healing from the Legacy of Slavery. Point Comfort is where the first enslaved Africans arrived in English North America in 1619. Point Comfort is North America’s “Door of No Return”. Come and walk the grounds and feel the spirit of those first Africans who did not come as immigrants, but were brought here as enslaved people in chains and against their will. We invite all clergy present to say a prayer with us. August 20, 2016 at 9:15 a.m. A Tribal King from Cameroon has indicated he will be here and along with representatives from many African Embassies including Angola and Sierra Leone. Other activities include an “African Naming Ceremony” and the annual African Landing Day Commemoration with the African dancers and drummers.
African Landing Day August 20, 2015
What a historic weekend!!! For 396 years the true history of those first Africans brought to the shores of English North America was shrouded in a cover-up to hide the fact that they were captured by pirates from a Spanish ship on the high seas. The ship Treasurer was based at Jamestown, Virginia and was partly owned by Governor George Argall and Lord Rich, one of the people who financed the Virginia expedition. There was a treaty between England and Spain to not attack each other’s ships. But Governor Argall violated that treaty by sending the Treasurer out to the West Indies and Mexico to attack and pirate cargo from the Spanish ships. The English ship White Lion traveled to Flushing, Holland in the Netherlands where there was no treaty with Spain. They received a marquee or mark, a license to attack Spanish ships. In July of 1619 the Treasurer and the White Lion joined in consort to attack Spanish ships they thought were carrying gold and silver. In August they came upon the Spanish Ship San Juan Bautista 500 miles from Mexico. The Bautista was headed to Vera Cruz where the Africans were to be sold to work in the silver mines. The two ships attacked the Bautista because it was heavily armed with canons and they took it for a war ship cargo carrying precious cargo. They attacked the Bautista and after getting them to surrender discovered that their precious cargo was enslaved Africans headed to Mexico. The two ships took approximately 60 Africans and swiftly headed to the nearest non-Spanish port. That port happened to be Point Comfort on the east coast of Virginia. The White Lion arrived first and after speaking to the post commander Captain William Tucker, they discovered that it was an English ship with English Sailors who went to Holland to get a license to pirate ships. Captain Tucker knew that piracy was illegal so he falsified the official records and wrote that a Dutch ship arrived during the later part of August 1619 carrying Africans since it was legal for the Dutch to pirate Spanish ships. The next cover-up occurred when Jamestown changed the official text written by John Rolfe who was the Secretary of the Virginia Colony. He wrote in his journal the Africans arrived at Point Comfort. Jamestown changed the text from Point Comfort to say they arrived at Jamestown. And from that point forward historians and authors wrote they landed at Jamestown.
In Virginia there were markers installed by the Department of Historic Resources at Jamestown and Point Comfort in Hampton, Virginia designating both as the official landing site. Since there can only be one landing site, Project 1619 requested that the Department of Historic Resources once and forever determine where the first Africans landed. After a thorough research by prominent historians it was concluded that Point Comfort was the rightful owner of this significant piece of America’s history. So the decision was made to remove the marker at Jamestown and edit it to say the first Africans arrived at Point Comfort and some were later transported to Jamestown and other plantations.
So in August 20, 2015 the Department of Historic Resources rededicated the marker at Point Comfort (Fort Monroe) as the official landing site.
Lt. Governor Ralph Northern and Secretary Molly Ward of the Department of Natural Resources presided over the ceremony. In attendance were Your Majesty Sinkam Konchipe Sylvestre, King of Bana, Cameroon; Kakmani Jean Pierre, Mayor of Bana; Ambassador Ibrahim S. Conteh, Deputy Chief of Mission, Sierra Leone Embassy, and Maria de Fatima Velasco, First Secretary of Culture and Mission, Angola Embassy.
The day got started at Noon with the National Juneteenth National Day of Prayer for Healing and Reconciliation from the Legacy of Enslavement. The marker was rededicated at 5:00 PM. At 6:00 pm the annual African Landing Day ceremony took place with the African drummers and dancers. The highlight of the program was the King and other embassy representatives addressing the spectators that was close to four hundred people.
King Sylestre, Tribal King from Bana Cameroon, in white, speaks to spectators
King Sylvestre meets with America's First African Family, the Tuckers, descendants of William Tucker, the first African child born in English North America.
Calvin Pearson, Project 1619 Founder with Embassy Ambassador
Throwing flower petals into the ocean to honor those lives lost in the Middle Passage.
National Park Service to receive portions of Fort Monroe
The state plans to transfer more than 100 acres of Fort Monroe to the National Park Service, a decision that comes nearly four years after President Barack Obama designated portions of the property as a national monument.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe is expected to finalize the transfer in a ceremony Tuesday morning at the stone fort's main gate.
The agreement will transfer 112 acres of the North Beach area as well as the Parade Grounds, Old Quarters 1, Lee's Quarters and Engineer's Quarters. The properties are a portion of the entire park service monument.
The National Park Service also announced Thursday it has cleared a key step that dictates how the monument will be run. The news comes as the fort also commemorates the first landing of Africans in English-occupied North America.
The role of slavery — from its origins to its end — will be key themes of the national monument, according to the foundation document completed in July by the National Park Service.
The national monument's creation "is just like building a house," Park Superintendent Kirsten Talken-Spaulding said. "The foundation needs to be strong to build a quality home on it."
The 80-page report will serve as a touchstone for programs, exhibits and events that take place within the national monument areas.
Still, the foundational document lists more than a dozen reports, plans and studies that need to be completed and executed in the background while park rangers perform day-to-day duties.
Topics such as sea-level rise, transportation and resource management are high priorities that need resolving, according to the document.
african Landing Day new historical marker
Virginia Lt. Governor Ralph Northam speaks at the unveiling of a historical marker commemorating the arrival of the first Africans in Virginia in 1619. (Rob Ostermaier / Daily Press)
african Landing Day new historical marker
United States Representative Bobby Scott, Virginia Lt. Governor Ralph Northam, along with local politicians watch as Calvin Pearson removes the cover from a new historical marker on Fort Monroe Thursday. Pearson heads the Project 1619 and the marker commemorates the arrival of the first Africans in 1619. (Rob Ostermaier / Daily Press)
african Landing Day new historical marker
United States Representative Bobby Scott poses for photos with the Tucker family in front of a new historical marker commemorating the arrival in 1619 of the first Africans in the New World. The Tucker's are descended from the first child born to those Africans, William Tucker. (Rob Ostermaier / Daily Press)
The National Park Service monument includes varying levels of ownership of the moat, stone casemate, parade grounds inside the moat and a 235-acre swath of North Beach area beginning near Battery DeRussy and stretching north.
The Army has said an area known as Dog Beach may not transfer to the park service in the foreseeable future because contamination is being researched and removed.
On Thursday, officials from Hampton, the state and the National Park Service rededicated a Virginia Department of Historic Resources marker to note the 1619 landing of a Dutch ship carrying "20 and odd" Africans who were traded for provisions and supplies.
The National Park Service, state agencies and local historians now believe the Africans landed first in Hampton and not Jamestown.
Thursday afternoon, local and state officials were joined by representatives from Angola, Cameroon, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Benin during the ceremony near the fort's Engineer Wharf.
"This is not just significant here, but it's significant across the world," Project 1619 organizer Calvin Pearson said. "Today is a day of prayer and reconciliation and healing."
Pearson and 1619 lobbied the state to change markers at Fort Monroe and Jamestown to show Old Point Comfort as the location where nearly two dozen Africans first set foot on English-occupied North America.
"It's been a 20-year fight to get make sure history was told properly," he said.
Brauchle can be reached by phone at 757-846-4361.
Copyright © 2015, Daily Press
Do you want to know more about Project 1619? For the past twenty years we have led a campaign to promote that the first Africans brought to English North America in 1619 arrived in present day Hampton, VA and not Jamestown. Each year we produce African Landing Day that includes a commemoration ceremony with a Libation, African dancers and drummers. We sponsor an African Diaspora Film Festival and a Juneteenth Jazz Festival. These events will take place in Hampton from August 20-22nd. Want to know more? Want to be a part of this organization as we plan events to commemorate the 400th anniversary of their landing in 2019? We are looking for energetic people to serve on the Board of Directors and various committees. See our web page at www.project1619.org or call 757-380-1319.
The City of Hampton, Virginia was founded on July 9, 1610 and is the oldest continuous English speaking settlement in America. In 1619 the first documented Africans to arrive on English occupied territory in what would become North America landed at Point Comfort in Hampton, Virginia, today’s Fort Monroe.
In 2019 the City of Hampton and our Nation will be commemorating the 400th anniversary of their arrival. The Project 1619 Committee, is a national nonprofit organization with a corporate office in Hampton, where the monument campaign will be spearheaded by descendants of the first Africans and the Contraband Slaves.
This grassroots movement is to raise funds for the commission and installation of a National Monument in Hampton. Currently Project 1619 is soliciting proposals and designs for the National Monument from sculptors, artist, and other interested parties.
The monument should be symbolic of the arrival of the first Africans, or their “Triumph Over Slavery”. The monument could be from any medium - bronze, stone, steel, etc. The commission shall be open to national competition as per the attached guidelines. For more information on the project, to submit monument proposal design ideas, or sponsorship opportunities, please contact Mr. Pearson below.
CLICK ON AFRICAN LANDING DAY FOR THIS YEARS EVENT
Watch interview given by Calvin Pearson and Chadra Pittman Walke on the first Africans and Hampton Virginia's historic African American history and the impact it had on America. Click Below.
For more information send email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Watch WHRO YOUTUBE on the the First Africans
First African Landing Markers to be Removed at Jamestown
Hampton, VA. For the past 395 years Jamestown, Virginia has proclaimed that the first Africans brought to Virginia in 1619 landed at Jamestown. These were the first enslaved Africans to set foot on English occupied territory that would become the United States of America. Jamestown erected signs proclaiming it as the landing site. But they did not land at Jamestown. Due to the persistent diligence of Project 1619 Inc (project1619.org) they proved that the first Africans came ashore at Point Comfort, Virginia, thirty miles downstream from Jamestown. Today Point Comfort is Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia. Due to the work of Project 1619 Inc. in 2011 President Barack Obama declared Fort Monroe a National Monument in part because that is where the first Africans came ashore.
The Virginia Department of Historic Resources has determined that the claim by Jamestown is inaccurate and has ordered all signs in Jamestown declaring that as the first landing site be removed and edited to reflect the first Africans came ashore at Point Comfort. The first Africans brought to Virginia in 1619 were captured from the village of Ndongo in Angola Africa. After the first Africans arrived at Point Comfort they were dispersed to plantations along the James River. Two of the first Africans to arrive were Antoney and Isabel, who later gave birth to the first documented child of African descent born in English North America. Project 1619 Inc, is accepting donations to construct a monument at Fort Monroe to honor the arrival of the first Africans in1619.
Pictures courtesy of Barbara Gibson
Picture by Daily Press
Landing of First Africans in Virginia Commemorated
Community members gathered for a prayer service honoring African Landing Commemoration Day at Fort Monroe in August 2012. Pictured above, from left to right, are Chadra Pittman Walke, Baba Awo Adeyemi and Larry Gibson playing instruments in from of the historic first landing marker where the first documented Africans arrived in Virginia at Point Comfort in August 1619.
Calvin Pearson and Rev. Ron Myers, Founder of National Juneteenth, speaks at National Press Club in Washington D. C. on Juneteenth Day and African Landing Day.
Calvin Pearson and VA Congressman Bobby Scott attend unveiling of Frederick Douglas statue at Capital Building on June 19, 2013, Juneteenth Day.
Support our campaign to raise money for a National Monument at Fort Monroe, VA in honor of the first Africans.
History of the First Africans
Between 1618 an 1620, thousands of Africans were enslaved during the war between King Alvaro III of Congo and his uncles and sold into slavery. There was also the war between the Portuguese Leader Endes de Vascondes and a band of a marauding mercenary soldiers against the Kingdom of Ndongo. In 1619 Africans were loaded aboard the Spanish ship San Juan Bautista and headed toward Vera Cruz, Mexico when it encountered the “White Lion” who many believe was an English ship with a Dutch flag and the “Treasurer” an English ship. The White Lion and the Treasurer captured cargo from the San Juan Bautista including nearly 60 Africans. The White Lion arrived at Point Comfort along the Virginia coast, present day Hampton during the latter part of August 1619 carrying 20 and odd Negros, where they all came ashore. Two of the original Africans who came ashore, Antonio and Isabella, became servants on the plantation of Capt. William Tucker who was the commander at Point Comfort. Some of the slaves were purchased by Governor George Yeardley and his Cape Merchant Abraham Piersey. They were then transported to plantations along the James River in what would become Charles City. The Treasurer arrived 3-4 days after the White Lion but was not allowed to trade their Africans so they left Point Comfort for Bermuda where they traded their Africans for corn. There is no documentation that either ship ever traveled to Jamestown to unload Africans. These Africans became the first Africans to arrive in America on British occupied territory.
In 1623 Antonio and Isabella gave birth to William Tucker, the first African child born in America. The Tucker Family and descendants from the first African child born in America still resides in Hampton. William Tucker is buried in Hampton.
This year our great Nation of the United States of America celebrates the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. President Abraham Lincoln has been given the credit of freeing the slaves. But the Emancipation Proclamation did not free any slaves in counties in Southern states controlled by the Confederates. It did not free slaves in Union held territories in Virginia, Maryland and other states. Many would remain enslaved until the passing of the 13th Amendment in 1865. There were many slaves and slave owners in Union territories who did not fully understand the true meaning of the proclamation so they thought their slaves had been granted freedom. And many slaves rejoiced that they were free, even though they were not.
The Emancipation Proclamation was the end to a means. Lincoln saw it as a way to end the war by allowing free slaves to join the Union army. Free slaves joined the war because they thought if the union won their freedom could not be taken from them.
But the quest for freedom started many years earlier. It was abolitionist like Frederick Douglas, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth and John Brown who began the road to emancipation. In May of 1861 three slaves escaped from the Confederate encampments in Norfolk, Virginia and in the dark of night rowed across the Chesapeake Bay to Fort Monroe, located in present day Hampton, Virginia. A day earlier General Benjamin Butler arrived at Fort Monroe to be commander of the Union Army. Those three slaves, Frank Baker, James Townsend and Sheppard Mallory decided they would emancipate themselves from 242 years of slavery that would be the greatest inhumane crime America had committed on one ethnic group. General Butler declared the three slaves “Contraband of War” and within months more than 10,000 slaves had escaped from Maryland and Virginia to what was now being called Freedoms Fortress. Many joined the Union Army.
Emancipation was inevitable due to the abolitionist who had worked to change the culture in America that slavery in the South was an injustice. Frederick Douglas was a confidant to President Lincoln and many believed he was instrumental in helping the president, who owned slaves himself, that it was time to free the slaves. In 1862 Congress freed the slaves living in the District of Columbia. President Lincoln saw that if Congress was abolishing slavery it was just a matter of time before freedom would spread thought the South.
So as we celebrate emancipation, let’s not forget that it was not the stroke of a pen that set our ancestors free, it was the struggle and perseverance of our brothers and sisters who fought the fight for freedom and equality that made emancipation possible.
Liberty is meaningless
where the right to utter
one's thoughts and opinions
has ceased to exist.
National Juneteenth Observance Foundation