News Release

National Park Service to Commemorate 400 years of African American History

First Africans in Virginia sign
Image of a state marker noting the first Africans in Virginia, located just outside Fort Monroe National Monument.

NPS Photo

News Release Date: August 19, 2019


August 25 marks the 1619 landing of the first enslaved Africans in the English-occupied colonies 


WASHINGTON - National parks will offer special programs on Sunday, Aug. 25 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. 

"The National Park Service protects and preserves the sites of some of the most significant events in American history," said National Park Service Deputy Director P. Daniel Smith. "To commemorate the anniversary of the 1619 landing, we are highlighting the places and stories in the National Park System that recognize the impact and legacy of 400 years of African American history and culture."

While Spanish explorers had previously brought enslaved people to what became the southern and southwestern United States, it was the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in English-occupied North America that led to African American bondage in the United States. The 13th Amendment ended slavery in the U.S., but the pursuit of equality and civil rights for all endures.

Aug. 25th will be a day of remembrance, healing, and reconciliation throughout the country. National parks, including Fort Monroe National Monument, will host programs and participate in a nationwide bell ringing at 3:00 PM EDT. Everyone across the country is encouraged to come together in solidarity to ring bells simultaneously for four minutes—one minute for each century—and mark the occasion on social media with #RingToRemember or #400Years.

The 400th anniversary is a year-long commemoration and conversation to recognize and highlight 400 years of African American history and accomplishments. The work of the 400 Years of African American History Commission, established by Congress and the President last year and administered by the National Park Service, extends to July 2020. Civic, historical, educational, artistic, religious, and other organizations are invited to coordinate and participate in activities designed to expand the collective understanding and appreciation of African American contributions to the American experience. 

Aug. 25 also marks the 103rd anniversary of the legislation that established the National Park Service. All national parks will offer free admission for the day.  The parks and programs of the National Park Service connect Americans and visitors from around the world with the nation’s notable landscapes, history, and outdoor opportunities. Each of the 419 national parks tells an important part of the collective story of America. 

In addition to Aug. 25, the remaining entrance fee free days for 2019 are National Public Lands Day on Sept. 28 and Veterans Day on Nov. 11.

About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 419 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at, and on FacebookInstagramTwitter, and YouTube.

Last updated: August 19, 2019