News Release

Federal commission coordinates commemoration of 400 years of African American history

Arrival of first Africans to English North America
Depiction of August 1619 arrival of first Africans to Point Comfort, Virginia (present day Fort Monroe). Colonial Williamsburg Foundation image

News Release Date: February 11, 2019

Washington – The federal commission created to coordinate the nationwide commemoration of the arrival of the first Africans to the English colonies in North America will meet at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington on Wednesday, February 13.

In 2019 the 400 Years of African-American History Commission will commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival in August 1619 of the first Africans to North America at Point Comfort, Virginia, at what is now Fort Monroe National Monument, a unit of the National Park System. The anniversary will serve as a touchstone to plan, develop, and carry out programs and activities throughout the United States to recognize and highlight the contributions of African Americans since 1619. It will encourage civic, patriotic, historical, educational, artistic, religious, economic, and other organizations to organize and participate in anniversary activities to expand understanding and appreciation of the contributions of African Americans.

Established by Congress and appointed by the Secretary of the Interior in 2018, the commission is comprised of 15 members recommended by governors, members of Congress, civil rights and historical organizations, and the Smithsonian Institution. It is administered by the National Park Service.

The commission’s work will highlight commemoration activities across the country including the August opening of a new visitor center at Fort Monroe National Monument, a partnership between the Fort Monroe Authority and the National Park Service. Additional events and programs are in development by the NPS, other agencies, and partner organizations. As plans are finalized, the commission hopes to have an online resource where the public can learn more about how to participate in the commemoration.

“This is a year of celebrating the many great achievements of people of African descent,” said commission chairman Dr. Joseph L. Green. “We are celebrating a people who overcame adversity and impossible odds. We want to use this moment to create legacy, to build people and communities.”

The commission meeting on February 13 will be held at the National Museum of African American History and Culture at 15th Street and Constitution Avenue NW in Washington. A public question and answer forum about commemoration activities will be held as part of the meeting from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Last updated: February 11, 2019