August 25 marks the 400th anniversary of the 1619 landing of the first enslaved Africans in the English-occupied colonies, and national parks are honoring the date with special programs and FREE admission.
All 419 national parks are hosting programs and participating in a nationwide bell ringing at 3PM (EDT), as part of a a day of healing and reconciliation.
Aug. 25 also marks the 103rd anniversary of the legislation that established the National Park Service, with FREE admission to all those 419 parks and historic sites..
Everybody is invited to ring bells simultaneously across the nation for four minutes–one for each century–to honor the first Africans who landed in 1619 at Point Comfort and 400 years of African American history.
First slave ship landed at Port Comfort
The largest bell ringing is expected to be at Fort Monroe, now within Port Comfort, in Hampton, Virginia, where the first slave ship landed.
“The National Park Service protects and preserves the sites of some of the most significant events in American history,” said National Park Service Deputy Director P. Daniel Smith in a press release.
While Spanish explorers had previously brought enslaved people to what became the southern and southwestern United States, it was the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in English-occupied North America, in what is now Virginia, that led to African American bondage in the United States.
The 13th Amendment ended slavery in the U.S., but the pursuit of equality and civil rights for all endures.
Bells are rung for joy, sorrow, alarm, and celebration.
The symbolic bell ringing gesture will enable Americans from all walks of life to participate in this historic moment wherever they are, at a National Park site or not, to capture the spirit of healing and reconciliation while honoring the significance of 400 years of African American history and culture.
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.
Parks and park programs can be places of healing and reconciliation.
Commemorate the landing of enslaved Africans 400 years ago, we honor this powerful moment in American history and the significance of four centuries of African American history and culture.
The 400th anniversary is a year-long commemoration and conversation to recognize and highlight 400 years of African American history and accomplishments.
The work of the 400 Years of African American History Commission, established by Congress last year. It is administered by the National Park Service and extends to July 2020.
Civic, historical, educational, artistic, religious, and other organizations are invited to coordinate and participate in activities designed to expand the collective understanding and appreciation of African American contributions to the American experience.
Aug. 25 also marks the 103rd anniversary of the legislation that established the National Park Service.
All national parks will offer free admission for the day.
The parks and programs of the National Park Service connect Americans and visitors from around the world with the nation’s notable landscapes, history, and outdoor opportunities.
Each of the 419 national parks tells an important part of the collective story of America.
In addition to Aug. 25, the remaining entrance fee free days for 2019 are National Public Lands Day on Sept. 28 and Veterans Day on Nov. 11.
All photos courtesy National Park Service