History of African Landing Day

As recorded by English colonist John Rolfe, the arrival of “20 and odd” African men and women in late August 1619, was a pivotal moment in the nation’s history. These Africans were stolen by English privateers from a Spanish slave ship and brought to Point Comfort on a ship called the White Lion. African Landing Day does not celebrate the circumstances surrounding the arrival of the first Africans to our shores.

The Vermont Racial Justice Alliance hosted inaugural Vermont First African Landing Day on August 24, 2019.  This commemoration was established to recognize and highlight the resilience and contributions of African-Americans since 1619; to acknowledge the impact that slavery and laws that enforced racial discrimination have on the United States and to educate the public about the arrival of Africans in the United States. This event included food, storytelling, dance, drumming, musical performances, and featured a commemorative ceremony.

On August 24, 2019 Governor Philip B. Scott proclaimed August 24th First African Landing Day in Vermont, proclaiming that “All in the State of Vermont are encouraged to learn about the Commemoration of the First African Landing Day to expand understanding and appreciation of the significance of the arrival of Africans in the United States; and the contributions of African Americans in the United States. The 4th Saturday of August shall be henceforth recognized and Commemorated as First African Landing Day in Vermont”

On August 22, 2020, challenged with the COVID-19 Global Pandemic the Racial Justice Alliance hosted the second annual First African Landing Day at Intervale Center Burlington, Vermont. This event was widely streamed and featured Dr. Wanda Heading Grant, then Vice President, Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, University of Vermont as Key Note Speaker. Net proceeds from the event went to the New Alpha Missionary Baptist Church Building Fund, the only church in Vermont, worshiping in the African American tradition.

Last year the theme of First African Landing Day was Out of Darkness: Into the Light!The Vermont First African Landing Day “2021” theme “Out of Darkness, Into the Light”, The event highlighted our journey as one that demands we learn and teach the truth about our national history; pursue, correlate and share the quantitative data that articulates the true past and current adverse impact on the lives of American Descendants of Slavery; and, demand reparative approaches to address these crimes against humanity. Our Key Note Speaker was Nobel Julz.

This year, the tradition continues with the Fourth annual Vermont First African Landing Day, themed “We’ve Come this Far by Faith”.

The story of the landing of Africans on Colonial America has been often erased or misrepresented but now more than ever, the story must be told.

We are proud of our heritage and culture and the impact it has played on building the greatest democracy in the world.

The historic landmark in what is now Hampton, VA was the first historic landmark created by President Obama. Read more on the national historic site of Hampton, VA.

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