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.
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.
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
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.
Last updated: April 6, 2021