By Dasha Morgan –
Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site and St. John in the Wilderness Episcopal Church in Flat Rock, NC, joined national parks and communities across the nation to commemorate the first landing of enslaved Africans 400 years ago in English-occupied North America at Virginia’s Point Comfort, now part of Fort Monroe National Monument.
Photo taken at the Commemorative Cross at Saint John in the Wilderness Church in Flat Rock, where a service was held Sunday, August 25th, as part of the National Day of Healing to honor the first enslaved African Americans on this continent.
The year, 1619, of course, was well before the United States became an established country. “Our perseverance, making it through 400 years, is something that should be honored,” said Terry E. Brown, who is African American and the National Park Service’s superintendent for Fort Monroe, the site of the first landing.
In 1619, an English pirate ship, the White Lion, arrived at Point Comfort, near today’s Hampton, Va. It was carrying what colonist John Rolfe described as “20 and odd Negroes.” The captain of the White Lion traded the enslaved people for food, bringing slavery to Jamestown and what would become Virginia.
A commemorative bell ringing took place on Sunday, August 25, at 3:00 pm, at St. John in the Wilderness in Flat Rock. Churches throughout the nation were invited by Bishop Michael Curry, presiding Bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church, to take part in a national action to remember and honor the first enslaved Africans who landed in North America. Of interest, Curry noted in his autobiography that both sides of his family were descended from slaves and sharecroppers in North Carolina and Alabama. A church service was held at the commemorative cross, which had been erected at St. Johns some years ago for their enslaved members buried in the cemetery. The church history includes records of enslaved persons who had once attended services there. At Christmas the young parishioners of St. Johns in the Wilderness church put wreaths and greenery on these graves.
This is part of a national day of remembrance, healing, and reconciliation, with many communities participating in a nationwide bell ringing. Everyone across the country was encouraged to come together in solidarity to ring bells simultaneously for four minutes, one minute for each century of African American history.
All national parks offered free admission for the day. This includes free tours of the Sandburg Home. Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site is a unit of the National Park Service. Aug. 25 also marks the 103rd anniversary of the legislation that established the National Park Service. The park is located three miles south of Hendersonville off U.S. 225 on Little River Road, and is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Weekdays are less busy than weekends. For parking options, please visit www.nps.gov/carl/planyourvisit/parking.htm. For further information please telephone 828-693-4178, or visit the website at: www.nps.gov/carl.