Congresswoman Barbara Lee Observes 400th Anniversary of the First Recorded Arrival of Enslaved Africans to America

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Congresswoman Karen Bass, Johnetta Cole, former president of Spelman College, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, actor Alfre Woodard, and Congresswoman Jahana Hayes together at the CBC’s ceremony commemorating the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first slave ship to America on Tuesday. On Monday night, Congresswoman Lee also lead a special order hour on the House Floor, during which she and other CBC members gave remarks marking the anniversary.

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee joined the Congressional Black Caucus in commemorating the 400th anniversary of the arrival of enslaved Africans to America on Tuesday.

On Monday, Lee also led a special order hour on the House Floor during which CBC members joined her in delivering remarks acknowledging this dark moment in American history.

Lee reflected on the impact of the slave trade on Africans and African Americans, drew connections between the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow in the U.S. and systemic inequalities impacting African Americans today, celebrated the contributions of African Americans to the nation, and noted her recent trip to Ghana with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and members of the CBC.

“Four hundred years ago, as we’ve heard tonight, the first slave ship arrived in Virginia. This began one of the darkest chapters in American history,” said Lee. “During the course of over 250 years of slavery in America — that’s government-sanctioned slavery in America — families were ripped apart. People were beaten and brutalized. Men, women, and children were sold and traded like objects. And to this day, Black communities continue to suffer from the generational trauma from these crimes against humanity.”

“So today, as we observe 400 years since the first enslaved Africans were brought to these shores, let it be known that this is a Sankofa moment,” continued Lee, referencing a West African symbol for the need to learn from the past in order to move forward. “Moving forward, I look forward to this body addressing the damage caused by the inhumanity of slavery by advancing positive legislation that uplifts the descendants of those who were enslaved, including H.R.40.”

HR 40 is the call for reparations for descendants of people who were enslaved in the U.S.
At the conclusion of her remarks, Lee asked for unanimous consent to enter The New York Times’ seminal project on the legacy of slavery in the United States, the 1619 Project, into the Congressional record. The project seeks to reframe readers’ understanding of the role of slavery as America’s foundational institution and its legacy and impact throughout the nation’s history.

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