Project 1619 Inc.

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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. 

Isabella, English North Americas first enslaved African Woman.

Isabella was captured from the village of Ndongo in Angola during a Portuguese raid between 1618 and 1619. She was held in captivity until a ship arrived in May of 1619. Between 1617 and 1619 over 50,000 Africans were captured from the villages of Ndongo, Kabasa and the Congo. Angelo, another African women, was also one of the many men, women and children captured.

The Spanish ship San Juan Bautista began loading 350 Africans the middle of May 1619. The ship departed Luanda, the port Capital of Angola the end of May. The destination of the ship was Vera Cruz, present day Mexico. Thirty days out to sea 100 Africans had already died. The ship stopped at Jamaica and traded 24 African boys for medicine. They unload the ship so the remaining Africans can get healthy. The ship then resumes it voyage through the Middle Passage to Vera Cruz. As they enter the Gulf of Campeche, off the coast of Mexico, they are attached by two pirate ships. The first ship, the White Lion, was an English privateer, commanded by and Englishman, Captain John Colyn Jope, from England. However, he was sailing a Dutch flag and had been given a letter of marque issued by the Protestant Dutch Prince Maurice. The marque legally allowed Capt Jope to attack any Spanish or Portuguese ship since the Dutch did not have a treaty with either Spain or Portugal. The second ship was the Treasurer, and English ship owned by the Earl of Warwick and commanded by Daniel Elfrith, sailing out of Jamestown, Virginia, with a letter of marque from the Duke of Savoy, England. But the Duke soon changed his mind and entered into a treaty making the letter of marquee void. The Virginia Governor, Samuel Argall, knowingly had participated in piracy and had authorized the Treasurer to attack Spanish and Portuguese ships, knowing that England now had a treaty with Spain and Portugal.            

The two English ships attached the Spanish ship San Juan Bautista. After rendering the San Juan Bautista unsalable, the pirates boarded the ship looking for gold and silver. They found a load of captured Africans. Neither ship was equipped to take all of the Africans so they took 60 of the healthiest Africans. Isabella was put on the White Lion and Angelo was put on the Treasurer. Both ships raced back to Jamestown, the closest English port to Mexico.  On August 25, 1619 the White Lion enters from the Chesapeake Bay and arrives at Point Comfort, and English settlement located at the mouth of the harbor, 30 nautical miles downstream from Jamestown. Isabella is aboard the White Lion.

In 1619 Point Comfort was one of many settlements composing the Virginia Colony along with Jamestown. According to the journal log of John Rolfe, the widower of Pocahontas, 20 and Odd Negars arrived at Point Comfort and they were purchased for much needed food. John Rolfe who was the commander at Point Comfort obtained Isabella and Antoney, a male African, to become his servants. Isabella becomes the first enslaved African woman in the Virginia Colony. The White Lion never sailed to Jamestown to trade Africans. All of the Africans were purchased and departed from Point Comfort to other plantations.   

Three or four days later the Treasurer arrives carrying Angelo and 28 other Africans. The Settlers at Point Comfort knew that an arrest warrant had been issued for Elfrith and the crew of the Treasurer for piracy. The Settlers refused to purchase any of the Africans. Elfrith learns that new Virginia Governor George Yeardley has sent a convoy from Jamestown to arrest him. No Africans were secretly sold as the rumors have it. Elfrith immediately set sails for Bermuda where he would sell all 29 Africans to Vice Governor Miles Kendall who supported piracy. Then Governor Samuel Butler seized Angelo and her 28 companions and took them to St. Georges, a jail. Some of the Africans were sold and others went to work for the Bermudian Colony. One of the Treasurers owners arrived in Bermuda and files a laws suit stating he was part owner of the Africans and they could not be sold without compensating him. He wins the case and was given Angelo and about a dozen other Africans. In February 1620 Angela and the other Africans board the Treasurer and head back to Jamestown before sinking in the James River. Angelo is purchased by Captain William Pierce of James Cittie County. They change her name from Angelo to Angela.

So what do we know about Isabella?

She arrives on August 25, 1619. She and Antoney are purchased by Captain William Tucker and become servants on his plantation. Isabella and Antoney are his only African servants and would remain together until they are eventually freed. Sometime in 1622 or 1623 they give birth to William who takes Captain William Tuckers last name. William is baptized in the Church of England in Jamestown on January 4, 1624. Once they gain their freedom they move to Kent County, Virginia and start their own homestead. William grows to be an adult and marries a mixed woman and Isabella becomes a grandmother.

What do we know about Angela?

She arrives at Jamestown in March 1620 and becomes a servant in the household of William Pierce.

Many institutions and associated historians have misled and distorted the African narrative to make us believe Angela was the first documented enslaved African woman in the Virginia Colony. As our country prepares to commemorate the 400th Anniversary of the first arrival of enslaved Africans in English North America, the goal of Project 1619 is to insure we commemorate the true narrative of our ancestors.                    

Actual Date First Africans Arrived in English North America Revealed

In the latter part of August1619, the first ship carrying the captured 20 and odd enslaved Africans to the Virginia arrived at Point Comfort (today’s Fort Monroe) in Hampton, Virginia. From that perilous voyage, their presence has had a profound impact on the cultural manifest of America’s past and still impacts the social, economic and political disparities facing families of color today.  For many years scholars and historians have recognized August 20th as the date the first Africans landed at Point Comfort, but there has never been any documentation to substantiate that date. Where did that date come from? No one knows.       

The one official document that confirms the first Africans landed at Point Comfort is a journal entry by John Rolfe, who was the widower of Pocahontas and also the Secretary of the Virginia Company. His job was to keep a daily journal and report back to England what was taking place in the colony. In August 1619 John Rolfe was at Point Comfort supervising the planting of the fall crop. In January 1620 he wrote a letter back to England which states. "About the latter end of August, a Dutch man of Warr of the burden of 160 tons arrived at Point Comfort, the Commanders name was Capt. Jope. He brought not anything but 20 and odd Negroes [sic.]”

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 ship White Lion, flying a Dutch Flag, carrying the captured 20 and odd Africans arrived at Point Comfort.  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 future country’s history. The first generations of Africans to Virginia were skilled farmers and artisans. Along with their culture, they also brought many ideas and innovations. It was their labor that helped build Hampton, America, and the White House, but they toiled through many generations of bondage servitude, civil unrest, and the march for civil rights, before becoming legal citizens.

For the past twenty plus years members of Project 1619 Inc. have been the catalyst to change the narrative of the arrival of the first Africans. In 2008 they created African Landing Day in the City of Hampton to commemorate the landing of the first Africans in the Virginia Colony at Point Comfort.

Many mathematicians will say the 20th is not the latter part of August. So when did they arrive?  The National Endowment for Humanities was instrumental in creating a database of slave voyage records incorporating 40 years of archival research from 35,000 slave crossings through the middle passage.  "Voyages: The Transatlantic Slave Trade Database" has allowed those records to be combined and collated so that the public can follow for the first time the routes of slave ships that transported 12.5 million Africans across the Atlantic from the 16th through the 19th century. That database has revealed that the White Lion, bringing the first enslaved Africans to Point Comfort arrived on August 25, 1619. This aligns their arrival with John Rolfe’s statement, the latter part of August.  Further analysis was conducted on the research by Spanish researchers, Engel Sluiter and Enriqueta Vila Vilar, and the Archivo General de Indias archives. Based on a comprehensive study of the information, Project 1619 Inc., now for the first time ever, confirms that the actual date the first Africans arrived at Point Comfort is August 25, 1619.   

The privateers, White Lion and the Treasurer, each captured Africans from the San Juan Bautista and headed to Virginia – the closest English port. The White Lion arrived at Point Comfort on August 25th 

Among its cargo were 20 and odd Negroes. They were called Negroes because the Portuguese people referred to all people with dark skin as Negroes. Two of the original Africans who arrived on the White Lion in 1619 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 was the first documented African child born in English North America. He was baptized on January 4, 1624, but no one knows for sure when he was born.   

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.

Traditionally African Landing Day is commemorated in August of each year. The event includes traditional African dance and song and Libation to honor the legacy for English North America’s First Africans who arrived in 1619.

Calvin Pearson, Founder

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

Project 1619 Inc.PayPal - The safer, easier way to pay online! Make your Tax deductible donation Count

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 shipsThe 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.

Embassy Representatives

Calvin Pearson, Project 1619 Founder with Embassy Ambassador

Throwing flower petals into the ocean to honor those lives lost in the Middle Passage.

                News – Hampton                                                        August 20, 2015 @ 17:00

National Park Service to receive portions of Fort Monroe

By Robert Brauchle   contact the reporter

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 or call 757-380-1319.       

Our Mission

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.

Calvin Pearson



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

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 ( 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

African Landing Day 2013

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.


Emancipation Proclamation

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.

Frederick Douglass

1860 Boston Speech


                                                                       National Juneteenth Observance Foundation