400 Years of African-American History Commission Holds Inaugural Meeting

The federal commission created to coordinate the nationwide commemoration of the arrival of the first Africans to the English colonies in North America recently met for the first time at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington.

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.