Day of Healing - Nationwide Bell Ringing Ceremony

A bell stands on a stage next to a speaker's podium.
Scruggs Bell poised for the action during the national bell ringing ceremony

NPS Photo

August 25, 2019 was the 400th anniversary of the first landing of enslaved Africans in English-occupied North America at Point Comfort in Hampton, Virginia, now part of Fort Monroe National Monument, a unit of the National Park System.

The anniversary was commemorated at Fort Monroe as a day of healing and reconciliation. The park and its partners invited all 419 national parks, NPS programs, community partners, and the public to come together in solidarity 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.

 
 

Bells are symbols of freedom.

They are rung for joy, sorrow, alarm, and celebration...universal concepts in each of our lives. This symbolic gesture enabled Americans from all walks of life to participate in this historic moment from wherever they were—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 our programs can be places of healing and reconciliation. As we gathered at parks on this day across the country to commemorate the landing of enslaved Africans 400 years ago, we honored this powerful moment in American history and the significance of four centuries of African American history and culture.

For parks and our partners, here’s how people engaged with this moment.

Finding a Bell

Bells can be big, small, old, or new... lots of little bells, one church bell, or a carillon. Creativity was invited for a moment that had personal meaning, power, and resonance for everyone involved.

Paticipants were asked this: Make your connection—explore the messaging above about the symbolism of bells. Does your site feature a bell? Share a picture or story about a historic bell, maybe the bell of a ship, on a writing desk, in the collection, in a building, in transportation. What does your bell symbolize? Joy, work, celebration, time, education, technology? Can you connect it to the concept of healing and reconciliation?

Planning the Event

The nationwide bell ringing took place at 3:00 p.m. EDT on August 25, 2019, the 400th anniversary. Participants chose locations to accommodate audiences comfortably and, ideally, were places that had connections to their group or community’s unique stories.

Sharing the Event

Websites:

  • Partners shared their events on their websites and worked with their partner parks to ensure that their events were included in the park’s calendar on NPS.gov.

Local media:

  • Many participants shared the news of their events with media in their areas.

Social Media

Social media was a key way to share the moment with sites across the country and with people around the world. The event at Fort Monroe National Monument was also livestreamed.

  • The hashtags #RingToRemember and #400Years were used in posts.

  • Many posts explored unique connections and messaging and invited audiences to share their stories, too.

  • Some participants created pages on their websites that explored the meaning behind their unique stories and place to link to from social media posts that day.

Last updated: April 6, 2021

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

41 Bernard Road
Building #17

Fort Monroe, VA 23651-1001

Phone:

757-722-FORT (3678)

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