News Release

National parks in greater Washington, D.C., commemorate the first landing of enslaved Africans in English-occupied America

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Date: August 19, 2019
Contact: Katie Liming, 202-619-7156

On Aug. 25, national parks in greater Washington invite the public to join a nationwide commemoration to honor and remember the enslaved Africans brought to Virginia’s Point Comfort, now part of Fort Monroe National Monument, in 1619. 

Across the nation, parks and organizations will ring bells on Aug. 25 at 3 p.m. for four minutes—one minute to honor each century of African American history. 

Commemorative Events on Aug. 25

At Georgetown Waterfront Park Day, from 10:30 a.m.-1:45 p.m. at Wisconsin Avenue & Water Street NW, Rock Creek Park will provide an opportunity for visitors to commemorate 400 years of African American history. Park rangers will offer short tours of the waterfront and information on the site’s history. From 2-3:15 p.m. at the meditation labyrinth (33rd & Water Street NW), the National Park Service (NPS) and Georgetown African American Historic Landmark Project & Tour will host speakers and lay a wreath in remembrance of enslaved Africans aboard ships that docked along the Georgetown Waterfront as early as 1732. Several local churches in Georgetown will ring bells at 3 p.m. In addition, bells will ring at Peirce Mill at 3 p.m. in remembrance of enslaved people who worked on the historic Peirce estate.

Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site and Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site will be open on Sunday to honor this anniversary. DC Strings will perform at 2:40 p.m. in front of the Woodson Home prior to the bell ringing. A tour of the house will follow. After the 3 p.m. bell-ringing at the Bethune Council House, a ranger will share the history of the building and its role in the civil rights movement. A tour of the house will follow. 

Frederick Douglass National Historic Site will ring a bell at 3 p.m. in honor of 400 years of African American history and culture. Visitors can participate in a group reading of Douglass’ “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July” and take a tour of the house.

Monocacy National Battlefield will honor the enslaved people who lived and worked on the six historic farms prior to the Civil War, as well as the U.S. Colored Troops who enlisted at Monocacy Junction. The public is invited to participate in a reading of their names and bell-ringing at 3 p.m. at the visitor center. The park will also host an event titled “Enslavement in the Free State: The Story of L'Hermitage” on Saturday, August 24 at 10 a.m at the Best Farm. 

Beginning at 2 p.m. park rangers from George Washington Memorial Parkway will offer opportunities for visitors to explore themes of remembrance, healing and reconciliation related to African American history at the Netherlands Carillon in Arlington Ridge Park. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own bells to ring alongside the carillon at 3 p.m. The carillonneur will also play African American hymns and musical selections that reflect the African American experience.

At National Mall and Memorial Parks, the Washington Ringing Society will ring the Bells of Congress, located in the clock tower of the Old Post Office, at 3 p.m. The bells were a Bicentennial gift of the Ditchley Foundation of Great Britain. They are symbols of friendship and are rung for the opening of a new session of Congress, on all federal holidays and other special occasions throughout the year.

Lincoln Park, home to statues of both Abraham Lincoln and Mary McLeod Bethune, will host a bell-ringing ceremony at 3 p.m. followed by a tour of the park and discussion about the contributions of Mrs. Bethune. A violinist will perform at the site prior to the bell-ringing. 

Park rangers at the Oxon Hill Farm and Fort Washington visitor centers will lead a moment of reflection and will participate in the nationwide bell-ringing at 3 p.m.

Visitors can explore the theme of freedom through art at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. The park will ring a bell at 3 p.m., and an art class will begin immediately after. The class is suitable for beginners and families. All materials will be provided.

Guest speakers, local historians and park staff will discuss the history and influence of African Americans in the local community at 2:30 p.m at Prince William Forest Park visitor center. The park will participate in the ringing of the bells at 3 p.m. Remarks will follow.

Since its establishment on August 25, 1916, the National Park Service has cared for extraordinary historic and cultural sites that are pivotal parts of the American narrative. National parks across greater Washington preserve and share the stories of African Americans throughout our nation’s history.

Last updated: August 20, 2019

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