1619 - 2019
The Arrival of the first "20 and Odd"
There is not a man beneath the canopy of Heaven
who does not know that slavery is wrong for him.
We know that they were not the first Africans on the continents of North and South America. Africans had been crossing the Atlantic since Before the Common Era (BCE). On August 25, 1619, the first ship carrying enslaved Africans to English occupied North America landed at Point Comfort (today’s Fort Monroe) in Hampton, Virginia. From that perilous landing, their presence has had a profound impact on the cultural manifest of America’s past, yet their descendants remain subject to socioeconomic and political disparities today.
The first Africans did not land at Ellis Island, Plymouth Rock, or Jamestown Island, but landed as human cargo that had been captured on the high seas during the transatlantic slave trade. The English privateer ship the White Lion, with aid of another privateer the Treasurer, attacked the Spanish slave ship São João Bautista or San Juan Bautista in a fierce battle in the Bay of Campeche in the Gulf of Mexico. The White Lion continued on to land at Point Comfort carrying the captured and documented “20 and odd” Africans from the San Juan Bautista seeking to trade for provisions.
This first generation of enslaved Africans brought to Virginia were captured from the villages of Ndongo, Congo, and Kabasa in the Angola region of Africa and were skilled farmers, herders, blacksmiths, and artisans. They had the perfect skill set needed for the colonies to survive. Along with their culture, language, and beliefs, they also brought many ideas and innovations including food production, crop cultivation, music, and dance. It was their unbridled spirit and labor that helped build the United States.
For generations, Africans and their descendants would toil to survive the evils of slavery. Facing civil unrest, physical attacks, and other atrocities, they endured a long march to become legal citizens of the United States. Those first “20 and odd” Africans marked the beginning of 246 years of slavery in the United States.
Two Africans who arrived on the White Lion in 1619 at Point Comfort were Antoney and Isabella. In January 1625, according to the Virginia census Isabella, Antoney and their son William were living in Hampton in the home of Captain William Tucker, the commander of Fort Algernourne. Their son William is the first documented African child born in English North America. He was baptized on January 4, 1624.
THE CALM depicts two sacred women and one sacred child before the upheaval of their lives, as they are soon forced to leave their homeland for unfathomably distant shores once as cargo.
The sentry in the foreground is alerted to the turmoil that will soon befall the trio, as they are soon to be forced to leave all they know and understand behind, and rely on the lessons of their lives up to that day, to live on in a world, not of their choosing.
The Calm resonates with a foreboding only witnessed from the point of view of the kinetic energy coined in the phrase, “The calm before the storm” — an impending storm that embodies the prescience of upheaval.
MARKING TIME |
Marking Time is this Church's yearlong tribute to 400 years of the creative industry of a people who were kidnapped and brought unwillingly to these shores and who, with resolute African spirit, fought for human dignity and equality.
This year, the world marks 400th Commemoration of the arrival of the first African men and women held as slaves at Point Comfort, present-day Fort Monroe, in Hampton, Virginia. Some of the Africans became part of the Jamestown Settlement in Virginia., the cornerstone of this nation. The forced migration of Africans to the Virginia colony in 1619 reminds us that they came before the Mayflower (1620).
Our Church pays tribute to 400 years of the creative industry of a people who were kidnapped and brought unwillingly to these shores and who, with resolute African spirit, fought for human dignity and equality.