In August 1619, 20 enslaved Africans were brought to Point Comfort in the English colony of Virginia—this site is now part of Fort Monroe National Monument.
The 400 Years of African-American History Commission Act, signed into law January 8, 2018, established a 15-member commission to coordinate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in the English colonies. The Commission’s purpose is to plan, develop, and carry out programs and activities throughout the United States that
- recognize and highlight the resilience and cultural contributions of Africans and African Americans over 400 years;
- acknowledge the impact that slavery and laws that enforced racial discrimination had on the United States;
- encourage civic, patriotic, historical, educational, artistic, religious, and economic organizations to organize and take part in anniversary activities;
- assist states, localities, and nonprofit organizations to further the commemoration; and
- coordinate public scholarly research about the arrival of Africans and their contributions to the United States.
The Commission may also provide:
- grants to communities and nonprofit organizations to develop programs;
- grants to research and scholarly organizations to research, publish, or distribute information about the arrival of Africans in the United States; and
- technical assistance to states, localities, and nonprofit organizations.
The Commission is administered by the National Park Service. Read more about the Commission.
Strategic PlanThe Commission's Strategic Plan outlines its mission, vision, core values, goals, and strategic initiatives.
The Secretary of the Interior appointed the Commission members based on recommendations by Members of Congress, state governors, civil rights and historical organizations, the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, and the National Park Service.
Dr. Rex M. Ellis, Chair, Associate Director for Curatorial Affairs, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture; Former Vice President, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation; Board of Trustees, Fort Monroe Authority, Williamsburg, Virginia
Mr. Ted T. Ellis, Vice Chair, Artist and Cultural Historian; Art Ambassador, National Juneteenth Organization, Friendswood, Texas (formally of New Orleans, Louisiana)
Mr. Ron Carson, 2nd Vice Chair, Founder, Appalachian African-American Cultural Center; CEO and President, Carson Black Lung Centers, Pennington Gap, Virginia
Dr. Myron L. Pope, Treasurer, Vice President for Student Affairs, University of Central Oklahoma; Adjunct Instructor, Department of African and African-American Studies, The University of Oklahoma; Advisory Board Member, Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools, Edmond, Oklahoma
Mr. Terry E. Brown, Superintendent, Fort Monroe National Monument, National Park Service, Virginia
Mr. Lonnie G. Bunch III, Founding Director, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture; former President, Chicago Historical Society; Former Associate Director for Curatorial Affairs, National Museum of American History, Washington, DC
Ms. Kenya M. Cox, President, Kansas State Conference of NAACP Branches; Executive Director, Kansas African American Affairs Commission, Office of the Governor, Topeka, Kansas
Prophet N. “Anyanwu” Cox, M. Ed., Minister and Founder, Reconciliation Ministry Without Walls; International Missions; Retired Nurse; Community Advocate and Activist, Wichita, Kansas
Mr. Glenn M. Freeman, President, Omaha Chapter, Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, a patriotic civic organization; retired decorated Air Force Chief Master Sergeant, Omaha, Nebraska
Dr. Joseph L. Green, Jr., Pastor and Co-Founder Antioch Assembly; Founder/CEO, Josiah Generation Ministries; Founder, The 2019 Movement, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Hannibal B. Johnson, Esq., Attorney, Author, College Professor, and Independent Consultant; Member, 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Mr. Kenneth S. Johnson, President and CEO, JMI, a Richmond-based marketing and communications firm; Member, Board of Trustees Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia
Mr. Bob Kendrick, President, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Kansas City, Missouri
Mr. H. Patrick Swygert, J.D., President Emeritus, Howard University, Washington, D.C.
Mr. Lewis H. Rogers, Jr., Superintendent, Petersburg National Battlefield, National Park Service, Virginia
The Commission will meet at least three times a year. For more information about future meetings, visit the Commission's meeting web page.
August 22, 2019 Meeting
The Commission met at Fort Monroe National Monument.
February 13, 2019 Meeting
The Commission met at the National Museum of African American History History and Culture, 15th Street and Constitution Avenue, Washington, DC.
November 28, 2018 Meeting
The Commission held its first meeting at Fort Monroe National Monument.
June 12, 2019—Let's Talk About Our Dream: A 400 Year Journey of Trials, Triumphs, and Trailblazing
It has been 400 known years since the documented arrival of Africans in America. On June 12, 2019, the 400 Years of African-American History Commission presented Let’s Talk About Our Dream: A 400 Year Journey of Trials, Triumphs, and Trailblazing at the United States Capitol.
The program expressed the journey of African Americans over four centuries and our hopes as a people, past and present, for racial equity and healing, each of which are consequential works in progress and important in moving forward beyond 400 years.
The program began with remarks from Senator Mark Warner of Virginia. The participants and audience—Commission members, their guests, students, educators, celebrity guests, Members of Congress, governmental representatives, media, and others who appreciate the value and content of work to be fostered by the Commission—were regaled with stories from featured guests:
Dr. Bernice A. King, Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change
Ms. Elizabeth Eckford, Little Rock Nine; Ms. Robin Woods Loucks, 1957 Central High School Little Rock Student
Ms. Edith Lee-Payne, Symbol of Youth, March on Washington
The Reverend Stephon Ferguson, The Dream Lives.
Commission Chairman Dr. Joseph Green and Commissioners Terry Brown and Dr. Rex Ellis moved the crowd with their personal stories. Congressman Bobby Scott (VA- 3) and Congresswoman Karen Bass (CA-37), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, also addressed the participants. Ms. Nicole Frazier, the newly appointed White House Director of African-American Outreach, brought greetings from President Donald Trump.
Mr. Nick Cannon, comedian, actor, writer, director, executive producer, deejay, philanthropist, and children’s book author served as host and facilitated the program.
Through a generous contribution from the Nick Cannon Foundation, the Commission provided transportation for 250 students and educators to attend the program. Participating schools were Central High School (Maryland), Thurgood Marshall Middle School (Maryland), Martin Luther King Middle School (Maryland), Cardoza High School (District of Columbia), Culture of Home (Virginia home school), and T.C. Williams High School (Virginia).
June 19, 2019—“LET’S TALK”: The International Day of Drumming and Healing
The 400 Years of African-American History Commission held a nation-wide event—“LET’S TALK”: The International Day of Drumming and Healing on Wednesday, on June 19, 2019.
Drums, banned in parts of America starting in 1740, ruled the day, just as they once did during sacred, healing, and celebratory occasions in Africa. Drums represent connectivity, not just among African Americans, but also among people around the world.
Last updated: September 14, 2021