Get ready to celebrate in 2019.  A commemoration is planned to remember the tragic way in which African-American history began, draw inspiration from the heroes and trailblazers over the past 400 years, and celebrate the great legacy and contributions of African Americans to this country.  

August 2019 will mark 400 years since the first documented arrival of Africans who came to English America by way of Point Comfort, Va. These “20 and odd” Africans (as it was recorded) were the first recorded group of Africans to be sold as involuntary laborers or indentured servants in the English colonies.

That was the beginning of what would become the largest forced movement of people in history. At ports up and down the east coast – Charleston, S.C., Savannah GA, and along the Chesapeake Bay, as well as New Orleans, LA.

The most comprehensive analysis of shipping records over the course of the slave trade is the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, edited by professors David Eltis and David Richardson. They estimate that during the entire history of the slave trade to the New World, 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World, with 10.7 million surviving the dreaded Middle Passage, disembarking in North America, the Caribbean and South America.

From 400,000 to 47 million

Of that 10.7 million Africans, only a tiny percentage, 388,000 were shipped directly to North America. From those beginnings 400 years ago, the population of African Americans has grown to 47 million.

While things may not be the best for African Americans today, a look back forces us, and others, to remember the tragedies and moral catastrophes that have shaped the Black experience in America. After surviving the Transatlantic passage, our ancestors survived 246 years of slavery, followed by Jim Crow Laws, cross burnings, and legalized discrimination based totally on the color of their skin, and not on the content of their character.

However, that is not the whole story of African-American history. African Americans have contributed to the economic, academic, social, cultural and moral well-being of this nation. We are inventors, scientists, judges, attorneys, CEOs, entrepreneurs, artists, entertainers, composers, poets, authors, journalists, photographers, activists, elected officials, and even president.

Trump Signed The Resolution

It’s this total 400 years of contributions of African Americans, without which America would not be the same, that will be formally commemorated, thanks to a bill HR1242 passed by the United States Congress in May 2017 and signed into law by Pres. Donald Trump on Jan. 18, 2018. The bill establishes the 400 Years of African American History Commission to help lead the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Africans in the English colonies at Point Comfort, VA, in 1619.

The 15-member commission is charged with:

Planning programs to acknowledge the impact that slavery and laws that enforced racial discrimination had on the United States;

Encouraging civic, patriotic, historical, educational, artistic, religious, and economic organizations to organize and participate in anniversary activities;

Assisting states, localities, and nonprofit organizations to further the commemoration; and

Coordinating for the public, scholarly research on the arrival of Africans in the United States and their contributions to the country.

Grants May be Available

What the bill doesn’t provide, is funding for the celebration, all money to cover commemoration activities and planning must be donated.

With funds raised, the commission can authorize grants in amounts up to $20,000 to Communities and nonprofit organizations for use in developing programs to assist in the commemoration;

Provide grants to research and scholarly organizations to research, publish, or distribute information relating to the arrival of Africans in the United States; and

Provide technical assistance to States, localities, and nonprofit organizations to further the commemoration.

Kansas and the Kansas City area are lucky to have three members on the commission:

Bob Kendrick, president, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, KCMO

Kenya Cox, NAACP Kansas State president; executive director of the Kansas African American Affairs Commission, Office of the Governor, Wichita, KS

Rev. Nora “Anyanwu” Cox, minister and founder, Holy Spirit Healing Ministry; retired nurse; and community advocate, Wichita, KS

They join a group of other prestigious commissioners including:

Lonnie Bunch III, founding director, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, and

Dr. Ruth Simmons, president, Prairie View A&M University, to name a few.

Stay tuned for more information planned activities and how you can plan and possibly fund a 400 year event in your community.

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