Congressional Black Caucus Lead Congress in Remembering 400th Anniversary of First Africans Brought to America

Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., from left, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, and Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., applaud during a ceremony to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first recorded arrival of enslaved African people in America, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Led by African drummers, a parade of Congressional Black Caucus members, including civil rights legend Rep. John Lewis, marched into Emancipation Hall on Tuesday to mark the 400th anniversary of the first Africans brought to the English colonies.

“All of our history is what makes this country a great country,’’ said Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, noting the nation has been reluctant to embrace all of its history, including slavery.

The ceremony was held in Emancipation Hall, an ornate foyer in the Capitol Visitor Center, named after the slaves who helped build the U.S. Capitol. With a statue of abolitionist Frederick Douglass only a few feet away, Republican and Democratic leaders cited the work of civil rights activists like Douglass and the contributions of African Americans to the building of the country.

They also noted how far the country has come and how much more needs to be done.

“This is not history, this is today,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York.

Many in the packed hall came dressed in African garb from full ensembles to dresses made of colorful cloth.

Caucus members sported Kente-cloth sashes over dark suits.

“Today we complete the journey that we began in Ghana,’’ Bass said.

This summer marked the 400th anniversary of the arrival of a ship from Angola carrying the first Africans to the English colonies. Across the country, lawmakers, civil rights activists, national park service officials and descendants of enslaved Africans have held ceremonies to remember the country’s “original sin” and the impact of chattel slavery.

Several members of the Congressional Black Caucus, which has a record number 55 members in Congress, traveled to Ghana earlier this summer to mark the anniversary. Others, including the national NAACP, led pilgrimages to African countries. A few traveled to Angola where some of the first slave ships sailed from its shores.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Deborah Barfield Berry