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tv   400th Anniversary Ceremony - First Africans in Virginia  CSPAN  December 30, 2019 2:01pm-4:32pm EST

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>> american history tv products are now available at the new c span online store. go to to see what's new and check out all of the products. >> more american history tv now with an event commemorating the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first africans in virginia and the dedication of a new visitors center. from fort monroe in hampton roads, virginia, this is about two and a half hours. [ applause ]
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>> to begin our program, please welcome the honorable donny r. tuck, mayor of the city of hampton. >> please take your seats. good morning, and welcome to the 400th anniversary of the first african landing commemorative ceremony. it's my honor to welcome governor ralph northam and first lady pamela northam, lieutenant governor justin fairfax, attorney general mark herring, senator mark warner and senator tim kaine, u.s. representative bobby scott and representative elaine lorry of virginia. representative karen bass of california and representative william clay of missouri.
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speaker of the house of delegates, kirklin cox, first counselor for the embassy of rwanda, former virginia governor jared, former virginia governor robert mcdonald, former missouri governor eric greitens, former representatives james moran and l.f. payne, chief judge roger gregory of the first circuit court of appeals, members of the governor's cabinet, members of virginia general assembly, including senate majority leader thomas, norfolk mayor kenny alexander, portsmouth mayor john row, chairman joseph green jr. and the members of the 400 years of african-american history federal commission, deputy secretary for fish and wildlife parks, national parks service officials, including deputy director daniel smith and deputy
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director david vela, hampton vice mayor jimmy gray and members of the hampton city council and other special guests. on behalf of the members of the hampton city council, our city staff and the residents of this great city, it is my honor and privilege to welcome you to point comfort, old point comfort, freedom's fortress, fort monroe, and now fort monroe national monument in hampton, virginia. today's hampton is a historic city that is 409 years old. when i greet visitors to our city, i often tell them we don't look that old because we've been burned to the ground at least twice. from almost its beginnings, hampton has been a multiethnic and multicultural city, a model for our nation and for the world to emulate.
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at its founding in july 1610, there were two ethnicities and two cultures here in hampton, that of the english colonists and that of the kikatan indians. just over nine years later, a third ethnicity and culture were introduced, that of african. in late august 1619, an english privateer ship, the white lion, arrived at point comfort with human cargo it had captured in an attack on a spanish slave ship. john rolf, the virginia colony secretary, stated that 20-odd negroes were traded for food and supplies. among those first documented africa africans to be brought to north america were two individuals simply known as anthony and isabella. they were married and in 1624,
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it is believed they gave birth to the first african child born in english america. they named him william tucker in honor of a virginia planter. now, destheir descendants are w this morning. it began with yesterday's ceremony at the tucker family cemetery. another african-american family that is here today, the charity family, can chase its roots to charles city county in the mid-1600s. i want to acknowledge the organizations and agencies that have corroborated the past 4 to 5 years to kplplan and execute just weekend's commemoration events but speakers, symposiums, panel discussions, cultural events, concerts, and educational seminars over the last three years. these are the hampton 2019
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commemoration commission, project 1619, inc., the commonwealth of virginia's american evolution, the fort monroe authority, the fort monroe national monument of the national park service and the 400 years of african-american history federal commission. i'd like to especially acknowledge and recognize calvin pearson and project 1619, who -- [ applause ] -- who began telling the story of the first africans' arrival at point comfort in hampton, not jamestown. with african landing events annually since august 2008. in closing, researchers and historians tell us that more than 12 million individuals were taken from the african continent during the transatlantic slave
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trade. of these millions, between 380 to 400,000 were brought to the shores of america. this weekend, we honor, salute, and commemorate those 20 and odd along with those other individuals, yes, even my own ancestors who because of their strength, determination, endurance, perseverance and resilience survived the capture and months-long transport through the middle passage and endured the indignities, dehumanization, brutality, and atrocities of that peculiar institution. to borrow from hebrews chapter 11, all these people died having faith. they didn't receive the things that god had promised them, but they saw these things coming in the distant future and rejoiced. they acknowledged that they were living as strangers with no
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permanent home on earth. today, i can imagine that as our ancestors are looking over the battlements of glory and beholding on this platform two congressional representatives, a lieutenant governor, a state senator, and a mayor who are all african-americans, their hearts must be overflowing with joy. >> please welcome the honorable james p. moran jr., former congressman from the district of virginia and current chair of the fort monroe authority. >> please sit. go ahead. thank you. thank you, mayor tuck. nice job. i was revising my remarks as you were speaking since you told some of the best stories, but
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you did it more articulately than i would have. as chairman of the fort monroe authority, over the last three years or so, there are several people that deserve to be recognized so i'm going to recognize some of them and then i want to make some what i hope are substantive remarks. first of all -- and i appreciate your listing so many of them. that does save us a little time. there are a few people i want to give a shoutout to. i want to first recognize governor ralph northam and i want to thank him for all the efforts and achievements that he has made in the pursuit of racial justice and reconciliation. just as an example -- just as an example that some of you may not be aware of, a number of us on the authority have had a major
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problem with an arch that exists down the street. it was called the jefferson davis memorial arch. it was designated as historic, although anything that is more recent than i am is really not historic. it was put up in the 1950s as a deliberate act of defiance by the daughters of the confederacy. we wanted it down before we had this commemoration today. the governor used his power to come down one morning, took every one of those letters off that arch, and if any of you want to see the letters, they're over in the museum some place in the corner and help yourself to read them. but it didn't belong here.
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i also want to call out some friends at the national level, former governors and senators mark warner and tim kaine. they've done such a terrific job. a couple other friends in congress, bobby scott, who represents, really, this area, does elaine loria, both of them in excellent fashion. bobby is chair of the education and labor committee for the country. karen bass -- karen, so good of you to come to this, karen. she is the chair of the congressional black caucus at the national level. she's also chair of the africa subcommittee of the foreign affairs committee. awfully good to have you here, karen, and let me mention some
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of the members of the fort monroe authority because those previous governors appointed them and they've been wonderful. our finance -- state secretary brian ball, resources secretary ma matt strickler, of course senator mamie locke who everybody knows. doesn't she look resplendent today? holy smokes. mary bunting is on the authority. she's the city manager of hampton. dr. rex ellis, who had a major role in the establishment of the national museum of african-american history, every single one of you need to go through that museum if you have not and we are every day making a closer connection with that museum. dr. ed ares. i don't know if any of you have watched the public broadcasting
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series on reconstruction, but ed is continually interviewed and he does such a terrific job. i listened to him two or three times, trying to write down notes and i thought, holy smokes, i know that guy. that's ed from the authority. well, he's done a great job, and ed, thank you. and dr. maureen lee is a professor at hampton university. jay joseph is currently serving as vice chair of the authority. collin campbell is the vice chair but he's recovering a little bit right now. but he's been terrific as well. incidentally, jay is the brother of molly ball, who was on the -- was secretary of natural resources and was instrumental in much of the direction that we've taken. i also want to recognize clark mercer because clark has done such a great job. he's chief of staff to the
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governor and really been directly involved and i'm going to come across a number of people. in fact, i see the attorney general, mark herring here, our -- of course our vice lieutenant governor, justin fairfax is here, all of those folks are going to have an opportunity to speak, but we also have a fort monroe foundation. they've raised money for things like the visitors center and every one of you should go through that visitors center. it's phenomenal, the accomplishments that have been made in such a short period of time to put exhibits there and every day it gets better and you're going to really enjoy going through there. mike westfall is the president of fort monroe foundation. the inimitable alan diamondstein happen wonderful. jack spoke yesterday and thank you, jack. the indefatigable bill, jane, and now let me mention particularly glen oder who is
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the executive director of fort monroe. i can't imagine the number of people he and his lovely wife, mary, have entertained on a weekly if not daily basis. he's just been terrific. there are so many people, as i look out in the audience, that deserve recognition, but i'm going to make a few comments so we don't get too far off our schedule. so, this is an historic place, because 400 years ago, some of the most important decisions that shaped our nation's future began to be made here. first, we pay respects to the native peoples who lived full lives for many generations. well before the first english settlers arrived. we also pay respects to those
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first english settlers, many of whom did not survive. those english settlers carried with them a strong desire for freedom and for a better life than the one they knew in their first homeland in europe. however, today, we address the paradox that a land settled right here in the name of freedom was also sullied right here at the expense of freedom. we are here to recognize the first enslaved africans who were brought ashore to the english colonies in the americas. human beings brought here in bondage to old point comfort where they were traded for provisions. the english settlers, including the first governor, governor yardly, who made one of those
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trades for couple of those folks, they decided to trade for them as indentured servants, ultimately to be used as slaves. it is this contradiction, this first immoral decision, that determined who we virginians became. slave holders for two and a half centuries. the fact that a virginian who became governor and then our third president wrote our nation's bill of rights declarg all people to be equal with an inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is a contradiction that undergirds and compromises the america most of us still want us to be, a commonwealth of people who believe in the
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promise of freedom, justice, and equality for all people. in 1861, at the start of the -- 1861, at the start of the civil war, 3 extraordinarily brave enslaved black men, their names were frank baker, james townsend and shepherd mallory, they sought refuge here by boating into the fort under the cover of night. the federal commander, major general benjamin butler, remember that name, benjamin butler, he's quite an historic figure, he decided not to return those men as fugitive slaves but to protect them by declaring them contraband of war. releasing them from the ownership of their masters. their masters came, tried to get them, he explained, you se ceded
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from the union, you're using these men to build fortifications for the confederacy, this is contraband. as the word of that decision went viral, by word of mouth, the brave act of these three men set off an enormous reaction. it triggered a migration of many more tens of thousands of enslaved people to seek refuge here. their passion for freedom, combined with commander butler's shrewd yet honorable respect for justice, created movement that would ultimately undermine the institution of slavery and contribute to the preservation of the united states of america, a singular nation willing to fight a bloody, brutal civil war to enable the emancipation of
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all of its people. it all happened here at what is now celebrated as freedom's fortress. in 2011, this place where the first enslaved africans were brought to english north america, and the first contrabands found refuge, was designated a national monument by the first elected black president of the united states of america, president barack obama. and ladies and gentlemen, he served his country honorably and competently. we have come a long way. but we still have a long way to go to achieve true equality of opportunity, to overcome all the residual effects of slavery, of
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jim crow laws, and of systemic racial discrimination. the american middle class was formed from the immigrant working class who successfully defeated the forces of naziism, fascism, and right wing nationalists who had taken control of most of europe in the 1940s. our federal government made available substantial g.i. housing and educational benefits for those working class americans who fought and won that war, except for the black soldiers who had fought at least as valiantly but were excluded from those benefits. and so, today, more than a third of african-american children are living in poverty. the net worth of white families is nearly ten times that of black families. that gap's tripled in size over
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the last generation, much of it due, still, to the comparative difficulty black families have in securing a home mortgage. prison sentences for the same crime are an average 20% longer for black men than white. scott knows that so well and is trying to address that. a job applicant in the united states with a white-sounding name is 50% more likely to get a call back from a prospective employer than one with an african-american sounding name. i could go on and on with these examples of modern day discrimination. i'm not going to do that. but i mention some of these facts because this should be more than a day to commemorate. it also must be a day to recommit to being one nation, true to our values, our ideals and our aspirations. we are a great nation.
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a great diverse nation. made up of the survivors of a genocide against its first inhabitants, made up of immigrants who came to this country, mostly from europe, prepared to endure discrimination based on their ethnicity, religion, or political beliefs, but who believed that this was a country that would, in time, overcome those prejudices and a country is made up of the descendants of people who were brought in bondage, held as property, treated as subhumans, even in a national constitution, but who persevered, who will triumph for proving their value and their humanity every day and who will help lead this country out of its ignorance and bigotry and selfishness to a future based on truth and justice and unity.
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because ladies and gentlemen, the courage to accept the truth gives us the strength to pursue justice and because we do believe what our founding fathers understood, e.pluribe.pluribu e.pluribus unum and that's a phrase on our currency, our monuments, and it's etched into our national soul. that out of the many, there will emerge one nation. out of the many, there will emerge one nation and that nation is destined to be as good as it is great. thank you all very much. >> serving as the cochair of the 2019 commemoration, american evolution, please welcome speaker of the virginia house of delegates, the honorable m.
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kirkland cox. >> thank you. good morning. as cochair of the 2019 american evolution commemoration, it is my honor to welcome you to this important ceremony today. let me begin by thanking the co-chairs of our first african-american to english north american committee, cassandra newbie alexander and she will stand. she's right here. jackie stone, who's right back here. certainly want to thank jackie. and the entire committee for their leadership and guidance in advising the programs and activities of this 2019 commemoration american evolution event. and one other introduction. the general assembly, who i think has done a yeoman's job helping with this commemoration, we have a ton of members here so i'm going to ask all the members
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that are here both in the senate and the house of the general assembly to please stand. a few weeks ago, we commemorated the 400th anniversary of the new world's first representative assembly. it was a moment worthy of remembrance, not only for what began then but for how far we have come in the 400 years since then. certainly, the same is true of this anniversary for we commemorate four centuries of african-american contributions that have enriched our commonwealth and country and shaped the america that we know today. and yet we also know the unspeakable tragedy and awful injustice that marked that beginning. as i said at jamestown last month, the year 1619 saw the beginning of not only the highs
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of america but also the lows of america. and we are here today to acknowledge the lowest of all lows, the forced arrival of africans to english north america right here on these very shores, which tragically was the genesis, the shameful evil that became systematic enslavement based on race. this occasion will challenge us to seek a deeper understanding of not only our history but also our future. the history is all too real. from these shores, the slave auction blocks of richmond, to the tobacco fields of south side, the original son of slavery left a permanent stain on our commonwealth. from the 20 and odd enslaved people who came ashore at point comfort, virginia's enslaved population of virginia would reach, sadly, 500,000 by 1860. the highest of any state in the union.
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from these shores to slave auction blocks in port cities up and down our coast to the plantations of the south, the original s origin original sin of slavery left an indelible scar on our nation. from the 20 and odd enslaved people who came ashore here, the slave population of the united states reached 3,953,761. by 1860. but as strong as the chains of slavery were, they were no match for the justice of our god. no match for the perseverance, fortitude, and faith of the enslaved community. no match for the righteous resolve of those who struggled and sacrificed to abolish this evil institution. as strong as the chains of slavery were, they were no match for the human spirit, no match for the founding ideals of freedom and equality, no match
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for the conscience that cried out demanding that the promise of a more perfect union apply to all americans, not just some americans. over these four centuries, african-americans have overcome the legacy of those chains to leave indelible and positive marks on our commonwealth and our nation. so today, we celebrate those contributions, especially the achievements of so many outstanding virginians who shaped the america we know today. men and women of achievement in industries as diverse as all nations, role models for all americans like booker t. washington and maggie walker, dred scott and mary elizabeth bowser, oliver hill and spotswood robinson, doug wilder and henry marsh. henrietta lacks and barbara johns, arthur ashe, so many more whose stories we recall this
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weekend, each of these people has a story of great achievement, of overcoming adversity, of blazing trails and opening doors for others, and their individual stories are part of this epic story that brings us here today, a story that began in tragedy on the shores at point comfort and saw a nation and a people through civil war and reconstruction, through jim crow and the civil rights movement, to where we are today and what we hope to become tomorrow. as we gather here now, the future is in our hands. what will we do to shape and model the future of virginia? today, we will hear perspectives, viewpoints, histories, and more that are part of a much needed dialogue, one american evolution has worked diligently to foster throughout this yearlong commemoration. hopefully that dialogue will allow us to go from contradiction to reconciliation, from sinful past to a brighter
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future, and a more perfect commonwealth as part of a more perfect union. we know that our history does not always live up to our ideals, but we also know that our future can and with god's help and our work together, it will. thank you. >> thank you, gentlemen, for your welcome remarks. now please stand for the presentation of colors by the seventh transportation brigade color guard from joint base langley followed by the pledge of allegiance.
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>> i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. >> please remain standing as we welcome miss chelsea griffin, vocalist and songwriter from hampton, virginia, who will perform the national anthem.
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♪ o say, can you see by the dawn's early light ♪ ♪ what so proudly we hailed
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at the twilight's last gleaming? ♪ ♪ whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight ♪ ♪ o'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming? ♪ ♪ and the rockets' red glare the bombs bursting in air ♪ ♪ gave proof
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through the night that our flag was still there ♪ ♪ oh, say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave ♪ ♪ o'er the land of the free ♪ ♪ and the home
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of the brave? ♪ >> please remain standing for the invocation offered by dr. joseph green jr., pastor and cofounder of the antioch assembly in pennsylvania and the chair of the 400 years of african-american history federal commission. >> good morning. >> good morning. >> it is a privilege to be here before you.
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on behalf of the 400 year african-american history commission and all the commissioners have one of these very beautiful pieces of garment that was custom made in ghana and sent to us, so we're very appreciative of that and on behalf of my family, my wife, gwendolyn, my mother, my daughter and more importantly my granddaughter eden and the reason i mention eden is because as we are here today to honor our ancestors, we are also here to write a new history for our children's children. yesterday, i was at the tucker family memorial and it was so impactful and i was so taken by the heaviness and the weightiness of that, it was such a honorable occasion and i appreciate you guys for sharing. but the same scripture that came to my mind while i was at the
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tucker family cemetery is the same scripture that i think is appropriate for today. and so, as i -- as we invoke the lord's presence in these events, i would have you to turn to -- well, you don't have to turn to your bibles. i'll just read it for you. my preacher kicked in just now. touch your neighbor and say he's going to preach this morning. the book of joshua, chapter 4, beginning with verse 4 reads, "then joshua called the 12 men from the people of israel whom he had appointed a man from each tribe and joshua said to them, pass on before the ark of the lord your god in the midst of the jordan and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder according to the number of the tribes of the people of israel. that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come what do those stones mean to you, then you shall tell them that the waters
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of the jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the lord when it passed over the jordan, the waters of the jordan were cut off so these stones shall be to the people of israel a memorial forever." let us pray. heavenly father, we come here today to honor a sort of memorial stone. we come here to acknowledge our passage here to this land. although the conditions were not good and the trek was treacherous, you sustained us. you kept us. the journey has been rocky and there have been many very dark days, but you are with us. we thank you today, father, that we do not come here to celebrate this past but to commemorate your faithfulness. we come here to honor your strong right hand that watched over us. through our tears and through our fears, we knew that we would survive and so we celebrate the god of abraham, isaac, and jacob, the god of our fathers. we celebrate our fathers that believed for what they could not see. we look back at the past as a
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means of hope for the future as you were with moses and joshua, we know that you are with us. we come here to honor the resiliency, the strength and the unwavering will of our fathers who bent but did not break. we know the strength and the fortitude flows through our veins so we seek your peace, your comfort, and your unity that the future is bright and the possibilities are endless. the hope deferred is not yet destroyed. help us, father, to grow together, to love and to dream together, let us walk in forgiveness, love, and unity, never let us forgive, never let us waiver. we speak your peace and your joy. we pray with expectation and with the belief that our ladder is much brighter than our former. like the message of redemption, we are here because we have the chance to write a new history. a history of hope, love, and unity. we put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. never let us forget, father, so
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that we don't repeat our mistakes. we forgive because we are forgiven and we thank you for the great future that lies ahead of us. in the mighty and matchless name of jesus, we pray, amen. >> you may be seated. please welcome the honorable timothy kaine, united states senator and former governor of virginia to offer special remarks. >> good morning, friends. good morning, friends. it is an honor to stand before you on such an important day. i want to thank all assembled but particularly the federal 400 years of african-american history commission. i played a role with congressman scott and senator warner in passing the federal legislation to recognize this momentous
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occasion, and i am deeply, deeply moved to be with you today. what does this day mean? in searching for a way to describe its significance, i didn't have the words, but i was drawn to the words of a wonderful virginian, oliver white hill, the pioneering civil rights attorney who i came to know when i was a young civil rights lawyer beginning my career in richmond 35 years ago. mr. hill was born in richmond in 1907 as virginia commemorated the 300th anniversary of the arrival of the english settlers at jamestown. he entered the world into an ironclad segregated virginia that had just passed a constitution to guarantee discrimination against all people of color.
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from the day of his birth, mr. hill set his sights on the emancipation of african-americans, indeed all americans, from the bonds of prejudice. in the military, in the courts, as an elected official, as a very civil rabble-rouser, mr. hill helped win the brown vs. board of education case and he was awarded the presidential medal of freedom in 1999. mr. hill lived an entire century, and he lived to see a very different virginia commemorate the 400th anniversary of the jamestown settlement in 2007. i was governor then, and as governor, i made sure that mr. hill got to meet queen elizabeth as she and prince philip visited the capital the week after he turned 100 years old.
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when mr. hill passed away three months after that visit, we honored him by having his body lay in state in the governor's mansion. the commonwealth -- [ applause ] the commonwealth that was set like a stone against him at his birth accorded him its highest honors at his death. mr. hill grappled with the significance of 1619. in fact, he organized a symposium in jamestown 50 years ago, september 1969, to grapple with what we are grappling with today, the monstrous tragedy of slavery and its deep and lasting consequences. mr. hill wrote an autobiography in 2000 and he chose a very unusual title. the autobiography is called "the big bang." the book's theme was the
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evolution of mankind and the need for a continuing american evolution. i can think of no better way to describe the significance of the arrival of the 20 and odd african slaves at point comfort in august 1619. it was the big bang. in physics, the big bang is posited as the violent event that began the universe. with massive consequences that still linger. it was a starting point, but the process commenced with the big bang is not yet complete. the birth of slavery in our nation was equally violent. both at its start and for the next 246 years and its debilitating consequences linger in our collective soul. it occurred precisely at the same time as the birth of legislative democracy in our nation, so beginning in 1619,
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virginia legislators and judges helped build the legal architecture enshrining slavery on our shores just as a virginian proudly proclaimed a society based on the truth that all were created equal. this dualism, high-minded principle and indescribable cruelty, has defined us. and the war between our cardinal equality principle and the prejudices we still cling to continues to define us. we cannot tell the story of our nation without speaking about its indigenous peoples, and we cannot tell the story of our nation without speaking about its immigrant character as drawn from the experiences of spanish settlers of 1565, english settlers of 1607, the french settlers of 1608, and the waves
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of others who freely arrived in their appointed time from all corners of the world. but neither the indigenous nor the immigrant story is the full story of america today. when the first africans arrived into the english new world in 1619, on these very acres, our nation now contained the powerful combination of indigenous, immigrant, and enslaved. and that mixture became the big bang creating america as we know it today. i want to close with a feeling that i have a very hard time putting into words. the transatlantic slave trade was one of the most cruel atrocities ever perpetrated by humankind.
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and yet. and yet, how fortunate we are as a country that the descendants of that cruel institution, those american slaves and all who followed are still here and are part of our country. it is impossible to imagine an america without the courage and the spirit and the accomplishment of the african diaspora. america would be so much poorer without our african roots. what does it mean to say that monstrous tragedy and the passage of time may sow the seeds of great beauty. and so we gather here 400 years
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later in a nation of resilient induj n indigenous people who still face mighty struggles. in a country of immigrants who too often face shouts to go back where they came from. in a land where the legally mandated discrimination still act as a shackle burdening african-americans, and we're faced with the conflict between our high-minded principles and the realities that we sinful humans often accept or even perpetrate. how might we move forward. mr. hill concluded the big bang with this quote. "many of our problems stem from several inadequacies. one is a lack of understanding of evolution and the inevitability of change. instead of opposing change, we
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should try to direct the change in a constructive direction. [ applause ] and the second inadequacies he talked about is this, the second is a lack of a model of the type of environment we need for a truly civilized society. as he said, we need to work assiduously to correct this defect. one way to do that is to promote in the 21st century a renaissance in human relationships and he concluded his autobiography with "that's where i am now." i hope that's where we are now. it's on each of us to understand our nation's history, and as mr. hill said, direct the change toward a better future. we can't do it silently. we can't do it from the sidelines. let's honor our african roots by finally living up to the ideal, the american ideal, that we're all created equal and that we all deserve to live free. thank you.
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[ applause ] >> please welcome the honorable mark warner, united states senator and former governor of virginia, to offer special remarks. >> good morning. >> good morning. >> it is a real honor for me to join so many friends on this platform and so many friends in this audience to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first african landing. i think as other speakers have already mentioned, this commemoration challenges us to reject the simplistic versions of our history, and quite honestly, confront the complicated truth.
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the truth is our commonwealth is both the birthplace of representative democracy and of american slavery. our nation's constitution enshrines both the ideals of liberty and justice as well as america's original sin. frederick douglass spoke about this contradiction a few weeks after the dred scott decision. he said that american slavery endured not only because of any paper constitution but in the moral blindness, the moral blindness, of the american people. now, today and these programs over this weekend, we remember the first landings of enslaved africans. we come face to face with that
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moral blindness that existed not only in 1619 or in 1776 but, unfortunately, even today. the truth is, our founders' idea of representative democracy did not include looking at this audience. most of you are sitting out there today. but if they knew that the descendants of the people america had enslaved would one day be free and that they would challenge our nation to finally live up to our founding ideals, well, that might give us all a little bit of comfort. we honor the heroes of that struggle today as well as the mane women whose stories are
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lost to history. we recognize that 1619 also marks the first chapter in the 400-year story of the african-american history. and as tim just mentioned, that african-american history is absolutely central and essential to both the history of virginia and the history of our country. [ applause ] finally, what we do hear today is a recognition that's long overdue. tim made mention of some of the time he was governor. i remember when i was governor and my youngest daughter was at that point in second grade. was walking around capitol square with my wife. capitol square is kind of the front yard for any of us who had the honor to live in the governor's mansion. as my daughter walked around looking at all these statues, and this was not 200 years ago,
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100 years ago, this was not 20th century. this was 21st century, she looked around and said, where is the statue of rosa parks? my wife, lisa, thought quickly, she said, rosa park's not from virginia. but capitol square in 2002, the only memorial, the only statues, were of dead white men and the majority of them confederates. that's not 1960s. that's not 1770s. that's not 1619. that's 2002. so with senator henry marsh, we set about and built the virginia civil rights memorial and when
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it was unveiled back in 2008 it was a historic occasion but it was also fairly bittersweet. the truth is, it shouldn't have taken more than 50 years to honor barbara johns in capitol square, but it's also equally true that there should have never had to be an occasion where barbara johns had to walk out of a dilapidated moton high school to ask for equal rights as well in virginia. it's a reminder that no monument or no legislation or no court case can erase the stain of slavery. it will never be that easy. the truth is, an american democracy where all men and women are entitled to equal citizenship is actually a very recent creation.
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as others mentioned as well, it was our commonwealth, places like prince edward county, communities shut down their schools rather than be integrated during massive resistance. now, we have made progress as a nation, but the progress is recent. it is incomplete. that progress will only endure as long as all of us remain committed to both defending it and promoting it. two years ago -- [ applause ] two years ago in a country where we thought, again, in the commonwealth where we thought we'd made so much progress, we saw violent forces of hate and backlash displayed in charlottesville. this tragedy had a lot of us asking, is this who we are? well, that history confronts us today. it reminds us that the answer is
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complicated. but one answer is absolutely true. what happened in charlottesville is not who we should be. and i believe all of our leaders, all of our leaders, have a moral responsibility to speak up and demand america deliver on its promise of liberty and justice for all. that's why this commemoration and the national conversations it's fostering is so important. if we're going to be a country that truly lives up to our founding principles, then we need to tell the whole truth about our history, the good, the bad, and, yes, the ugly as well. so as we mark this 400-year commemoration of the first african landing, it is my hope
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that this will be a moment to both comfort the afflicted but also afflict the comfortable. thank you so much for letting me be part of this important ceremony today. thank you. [ applause ] >> to share special remarks please welcome the honorable karen r. bass, united states house of representatives for the 37th congressional district of california and chair of the congressional black caucus. [ applause ] >> good morning, everyone. i want to thank the great people of the state of virginia for organizing a series of events commemorating the 400-year anniversary of the arrival of enslaved africans. i want to thank all of the community and elected leaders here for your invitation to participate on behalf of the 55-member-strong congressional black caucus. this is the largest number of
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african-americans ever elected to congress, and in congress, cbc members hold major positions of leadership and have accomplished significant change through legislative victories. one of the most significant legislative victories of the year was accomplished by your own representative, representative bobby scott, who, by the way -- [ applause ] -- i know you are aware is the chair of one of the most important committees in congress, the committee governing the nation's education system. he led and is leading the effort to raise the nation's national minimum wage. [ applause ] let me acknowledge another member of the congressional black caucus who is in the audience with us today. representative lacy clay from the great state of missouri.
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so today we commemorate the anniversary of the arrival here of africans, but earlier this month a delegation of members of the congressional black caucus led by speaker nancy pelosi traveled to ghana, west africa, to pay homage to our ancestors and to visit where they were held captive before they began that horror-filled journey. before they were captured, they lived in villages with sophisticated levels of organization. many were skilled craftsmen, farmers, healers, and leaders. they were first taken from villages and forced to walk hundreds of miles to dungeons. our delegation visited these dungeons that look like the old european forts common in many parts of the world. the two dungeons we visited are called elmina and cape coast. ironically, they are in a beautiful part of the country right on the beach.
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it was a solemn and emotional experience to enter the dungeon, to close our eyes and imagine what our ancestors experienced. an added challenge we all faced was the mystery of knowing that our ancestors were held captive there but that we had no knowledge of who they were. captured africans were stripped of their languages, ethnic identities, tribal and family ties. we saw the areas of the dungeons that were large enough to hold about 50 to 100 people but where hundreds were held. rooms without sunlight. forced to lay in their own excrement. no access to water to bathe. only given enough food and water to keep them alive but deliberately kept in a weakened state so they could not organize or resist. those that did attempt to resist were mutilated and left in separate rooms and slowly starved to death. females were routinely made to stand in line while their captors would choose one of
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them. she was then washed and led up a staircase to a bedroom where she was raped and then returned back. the men, women, and children were held in the dungeons for months awaiting the time they would be forced onto boats to begin a journey that lasted for months. we have all seen the drawings of hundreds of people stuffed onto ships and heard the stories of what happened during their journey. when individuals became too sick or died or women gave birth, they were then thrown overboard the ship to the sharks who followed along. the ones that survived here only to live out the rest of their lives as property in captivity. it is difficult to believe that this level of brutality lasted for hundreds of years and affected millions of africans. but when we stood in the dungeons filled with sadness, our heads lowered, reliving or trying to imagine what they went
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through, at the very same time, we lifted our heads and our chests were filled with pride and amazement at the strength and resilience of our ancestors. [ applause ] and here we are today on what can be described as hallowed ground in our nation's history, but i would guess that most of the nation doesn't even know the story of the hallowed ground we stand on today. that we would arrive here first and generations later would escape enslavement and seek protection right here. that the nation's first african-american president would make it his first designation for a national monument. [ applause ]
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from enslaved ancestors to mayor tuck and vice mayor gray, that in spite of 250 years of enslavement, there would be 57 african-americans in congress representing all of america. [ applause ] i can only wish the entire nation can witness what you're doing here today. the history of ft. monroe. how you have honestly acknowledged all of our nation's history, not just the parts that make us feel good but difficult parts as well. i can't tell you what it feels like for me to sit here -- this is my first time here -- but the emotion that i feel in listening to the speakers tell the truth -- tell the truth -- [ applause ]
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the sad thing about our nation and why we continue to have the issues we do is because we have denied part of our history. and i believe that if the entire nation could experience, could learn and understand our true and full history, we might not be witnessing the resurrection of hate. thank you so much for the honor of speaking to you today. [ applause ] >> now please welcome the honorable robert c. scott, united states house of representatives for the 3rd congressional district of virginia. >> good morning. >> good morning. >> i'm honored to join all of you here at freedoms fortress on
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this historic and solemn day. i want to thank everyone here who made this commemoration possible and who traveled with us today, especially my distinguished colleague from california, karen bass. it is -- you can't imagine -- the ones that came here 400 years ago could not imagine a representative representing a caucus of 55 members speaking at the recognition of this day, so i want to give karen bass another round of applause for being with us today. [ applause ] also want to welcome the commissioners on the 400 years of african-american history commission. senator kaine was very generous in giving everybody credit but
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himself. of course, it was his vision and leadership that created this commission. give senator kaine another round of applause. [ applause ] slavery first arrived on our shores right here 400 years ago. the forced labor of enslaved africans and their descendants built this great nation. that's part of our complicated history with which we continue to wrestle. over the past 400 years descendants and others who have followed the first 20-and-odd africans made significant contributions to all aspects of american history. as we continue to work in addressing inequality and education, incarceration, criminal justice system, income inequality and attacks on voting rights, we also pause to celebrate the incredible resiliency of those africans and their descendants. in that spirit i've been asked to discuss one individual whose
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fight for justice has much to teach us today. now, when i'm introduced at public gatherings it's often mentioned that i'm the first african-american to represent the virginia and the u.s. house of representatives since reconstruction. and only the second in the history of the commonwealth. the first was john mercer langston who after successfully contesting his election in 1988 was finally seated as a representative in 1890. 103 years before i began my first term in congress. now, my service in congress and that of so many others would not have been possible if it had not been those who fought to pave the way. the first black senators and representatives elected like langston after the civil war during reconstruction, as well as those who put their lives on the line to advance civil rights and defend voting rights of african-americans. but even before becoming virginia's first black congressman, john mercer
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langston had already left a mark on our commonwealth and our nation. as a student, abolitionist, patriot, lawyer, educated, diplomat, and public official. in 1829 langston was born a free man in louisa county, virginia, and later following the death of his parents moved to ohio. langston's brother ensured that he received a good education and he graduated from overland college and became one of our nation's first black attorneys and first black elected official as he was the town clerk in ohio. as an abolitionist, langston risked his life to assist those escaping slavery along the underground railroad. as a patriot, he joined frederick douglass and other abolitionists to recruit black men to fight for the union and turn the tide of the civil war. as an educator, he helped establish howard university's law school, the nation's first black law school, alma mater of
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two of virginia's greatest civil rights attorneys, thurgood -- america civil rights attorneys, thurgood marshall and oliver hill who you've heard about as well as virginia's first african-american governor, l. douglas wilder. langston also served as first president of what today is virginia state university in petersburg. langston was encouraged by both whites and blacks to run for the u.s. house of representatives in 1888. initially it appeared that he had lost, but he contested the results due to obvious voter intimidation and fraud. u.s. house of representatives eventually declared him the winner and he took his seat on september 23rd, 1890, and was only able to serve the few remaining months in his term. he lost his bid for re-election but he had already left an indelible mark on the cause of freedom. a portrait of john mercer
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langston hangs in my office. a visible reminder of one of the many visionary black virginians and americans whose dogged pursuit of equity helped shape a more perfect union. we may never know all of the names and stories of the men and women who are brought here at point comfort in 1619 but as we remember, mourn, and honor them, let us also remember the trail blazers like john mercer langston who followed them, believed in, and fought for a nation to live up to its creed. i hope that reflecting on our nation's complicated history reminds us of our responsibility to work to achieve liberty and justice for all. thank you. [ applause ] >> please welcome the honorable elaine j. luria, united states house of representatives for the 2nd congressional district of virginia.
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>> good morning. 400 years ago, our commonwealth was the site of pivotal historical firsts. for example, we recently celebrated the 400th anniversary of the first legislative session in jamestown. this event led to representative democracy in america and continues to influence our society for the better. but american history isn't all uplifting and convenient. in fact, it's messy and it's complicated. our pasts contain difficult truths that we must learn from so we can be empowered and equipped to correct today's injustices. one of those difficult truths is that our commonwealth, specifically ft. monroe, the land we're standing on now, is the site of where the first enslaved africans in british
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north america arrived 400 years ago. today, we remember this history that continues to shape our nation. we also honor the bravery of those who escaped slavery here. frank baker, shepard mallory, and james townsend. all of whom paved the way for thousands more. as one of the several representatives here in hampton roads, i'm proud that ft. monroe serves as a symbol of the courage and heroism that emerged from america's original sin of slavery and from a military community perspective, we know the fight for freedom is one that has been waged with great cost. including many thousands of african-americans from virginia who've contributed to the safety, security, and freedom of this nation. many came from or fought in hampton roads community. we're reminded of men like
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william harvey carney, born into slavery in norfolk, mr. carney joined the union army during the civil war and made his mark during the 1863 assault in ft. wagner in charleston, south carolina. as the soldier holding the union flag was killed, mr. carney ran to catch the falling flag, raised it high and kept marching despite his own multiple wounds. he made his way back to the union side, never once dropping the flag. his actions were an inspiration to his fellow soldiers. unfortunately, mr. carney had to wait until 1900, 37 years, to receive recognition for his efforts. by then, other african-americans had received medals of honor but because of his actions had occurred first, mr. carney is considered to be the first african-american medal of honor recipient. [ applause ]
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african-americans who fought for american freedom must be remembered in part because they, themselves, were not free, nor did they benefit from the liberties given to other americans. clearly, their sacrifice went above and beyond. as president obama once said, ft. monroe played an important role in some of the darkest and some of the most heroic moments in american history. we have the power to transform symbols of injustice into bastions of hope and knowledge. that's why ft. monroe is so important. as we listen to today's speakers and reflect on the complex history of our community, let us remember the past so we can pave the way to a brighter future. above all, let's recommit together toward a better america. thank you. [ applause ]
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>> please welcome to the podium the 73rd governor of virginia, the honorable ralph s. northam. [ applause ] >> please be seated. good morning. >> good morning. >> what a beautiful setting this is. i thank you for the privilege of speaking to you at ft. monroe today. as a former member and vice chairman of the ft. monroe authority, it's always a pleasure to be here at this site. thank you, all, for being here today to commemorate 400 years of american history. for those of you from out of state, welcome to virginia.
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[ applause ] it's great to be here today with former governors, now senators mark warner and tim kaine. former governors mcdonnell and baliles. i also want to recognize lieutenant governor justin fairfax. attorney general mark herring. congressman bobby scott. congresswoman elaine luria. house of delegates speaker kirk cox. members of our legislative black caucus and other elected officials. i want to thank everyone who has worked so hard to make this commemoration a reality. ft. monroe authority director glen oda. chairman jim moran. members of the ft. monroe authority board, ft. monroe national monument superintendent
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terry brown. the national park service. cathie spangler. nancy rodriguez. and the team from american evolution. i'd also like to thank the hampton 2019 commemorative commission for all the hard work they have done around these events in their home city. [ applause ] we are here today for a commemoration and a reckoning. today is a time to reckon with the fact that 400 years ago enslaved africans arrived for the first time on virginia shores. like you and me, they had lives and families, lives and families, they would never see again. just up the river in jamestown a
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few weeks earlier, white landowning men had come together to establish a system of representative government, but that system did not represent all of the people who arrived here at old point cutler. people whose skin looked different than mine. that government did not represent them during 246 years of slavery. it did not represent them through nearly 100 years of reconstruction and in jim crow terror and discrimination, and in many ways it struggles to represent them today. [ applause ] that is the truth, and that is what we must reckon with as we move forward.
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how do we tell the full and true story of our past 400 years? how do we do so with honor and dignity for people whose honor and dignity were taken away from them? who should tell the story? and how do we learn from those lessons as we move forward? ida b. wells wrote that the way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them. if we are going to begin to truly write the wrongs of our four centuries of history, if we are going to turn the light of truth upon them, we have to start with ourselves. over the past several months as i have met with people around the state and listened to their views on disparities and inequities that still exist today, i've had to confront some
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painful truths. among those truths was my own incomplete understanding regarding race and equity. i have learned a great deal from those discussions, and i have more to learn, but i also learned that the more i know, the more i can do. [ applause ] you see, for too long the burden has been on individuals and communities of color to lead these discussions, but if more of us have these hard conversations and truly listen and learn from them, we'll be better able to shine that light of truth. [ applause ]
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because the eyes can't see what the mind doesn't know. we can start those conversations at places like this, ft. monroe, the ground where the first enslaved africans landed. this is also the same ground where the end of slavery began. it was here where enslaved people sought refuge and were granted it. a decision that eventually led to emancipation. general butler's contraband decision has been hailed by ed ayers, a nationally known historian of the american south and a member of the ft. monroe authority as the greatest moment in american history. [ applause ] virginia is the place where enslaved africans first landed and where american representative democracy was born.
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virginia is the place where emancipation began and the confederate capital was located. virginia is the place where schools were closed under massive resistance, rather than desegregate and allow black children to attend, and it is the state that elected the nation's first african-american governor. virginia is a place of contradictions and complexity. we take a step forward and often a step backwards and we have to acknowledge that. we have to teach that our complexity to our children and often to our adults. we are a state that for too long has told a false story of ourselves. the story we tell is insufficient and inadequate, especially when it comes to black history. we must remember that black history -- [ applause ]
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we must remember that black history is american history. [ applause ] that's why earlier today i assigned a director to form a commission on african-american history education in our commonwealth. [ applause ] you all needed to stretch your legs a little bit. didn't you? yes. but this commission will review our educational standards, instructional practices, content and resources currently used to teach african-american history
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in our commonwealth. we want to make sure all students develop a full and comprehensive understanding of the african-american voices that contribute to our story, but that is not the only thing that we can do. when we look back at events of 1619 or 1861 or 1964 when the civil rights act was signed, we often look at them in history frozen in time or locked in a book, relics of the past. we memorize dates but not connections. we don't teach the themes that appear in our history over and over again. we often fail to draw the connecting lines from those past events to our present day. but to move forward, that is what we must do.
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we know that racism and discrimination aren't locked in the past. they weren't solved with the civil rights act. they didn't disappear. they merely evolved. they're still with us in the disparities we see in education attainment and school suspension rates, in maternal and neonatal mortality for black and white mothers, in our courts and prisons and in our business practices. through 400 years of american history starting with enslavement of africans, through jim crow, massive resistance and now mass incarceration, black oppression has always existed in this country, just in different forms. the legacy of racism continues not just in isolated incidents but as a part of a system that touches every person and aspect
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of our lives, whether we know it or not. here at this place, we need to do more than talk. we need to take action. [ applause ] the commission i mentioned earlier is just one action. my administration is taking bold steps to right historical inequities in our education, in our health system, and in access to business opportunities. we established a commission to examine racial inequities in virginia law. we have set a goal to eliminate racial disparities in maternal and neonatal mortality by 2025. i signed an executive order to advance equity for our small women, minority, and veteran-owned businesses, including a statewide disparity study.
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and we are working to reduce evictions. a few weeks ago, i was here at ft. monroe to announce the removal of letters from the arch that once celebrated the president of the confederacy. [ applause ] jefferson davis was charged with treason and was imprisoned here at ft. monroe, a traitor to his country, and i believe it is no coincidence that in the same year that virginia enacted massive resistance as official state policy, that arch went up in his honor. to have a monument glorifying a person who worked to maintain slavery on the same site in which enslaved africans both first arrived here and were later freed is not just inappropriate, it is offensive and it is wrong.
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[ applause ] removing that monument is one way we can act to better tell the true story here in virginia, and i am pleased and proud to announce today another important step in how we represent the full and true story of our commonwealth. last year, i requested and the general assembly agreed to allocate $500,000 toward the first african landing memorial art project here at ft. monroe. [ applause ] since that time the ft. monroe authority and virginia commission for the arts in partnership with the national park service, the ft. monroe foundation, and project 1969, led a national search for an artist who could create this memorial art project at old point comfort.
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the art project will be dedicated to the first landing of african people here on these shores. importantly, the artist will engage with the public to ensure that the community has the chance to express their opinion on what this memorial project means to them and what experiences should be included in the design. i'm delighted that the artist for the ft. monroe african landing memorial art project is here with us today. please welcome mr. brian owens. would you please stand, sir? [ applause ] i look forward to seeing mr. owens' project and how it will contribute to this site and the telling of this important american story. on this very day last year, i was at the tucker family cemetery.
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a cemetery named after the first documented child of african descent born in english-speaking north america. william tucker's parents, anthony and isabel, were among those who were brought here to old point comfort in 1619. like too many african-american cemetery, the tucker family cemetery had fallen victim to neglect, but it's also a testament to revival and restoration. family members and interested groups are working to restore that cemetery, and i want to recognize and thank delegate dolores mcquinn for her work on this issue. delegate mcquinn. [ applause ] in that restoration work and in the events here this weekend, i see steps forward.
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i see us working to acknowledge the wrongs and the evils done in the past and in the present because while we cannot change the past, we can use it and learn from it. when we know more, we can do more. i know more and as your governor, i will do more. [ applause ] and as we reckon with the painful legacy of virginia's racist past and acknowledge that it continues to shape our present, we can and must continue to act to improve the future. we must all work to tell our full and true story. it is our job. all of us that make up this diverse society, to ensure that when the next generation looks back, a generation that is hopefully more inclusive than we
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have been, they see a more accurate narrative. one that tells the truth and includes everyone. may god bless ft. monroe. my god bless the commonwealth of virginia, our united states of america, and may god bless all of you. thank you, all, so much. [ applause ] >> announcer: due to a family illness, nikki giovanni is unable to be with us today. to read her original poem for this occasion, please welcome jacqueline e. stone, co-chair of the american evolution 29 commemoration first africans to english north america committee. [ applause ] >> a poem by nikki giovanni.
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"1619, jamestown but not only. an answer to "the new york times." there may be a time limit, but there is no time limit to change that does not, will not, cannot change. no matter what the color the people or language they speak, no matter which god is served, no matter which food is eaten or forbidden, which clothes are worn or not, no matter the hair covered or shaved, no matter how we look at it, there have been slaves. every civilization, or rather, most, reach a point where slavery is recognized as wrong or in some cases simply a bad idea, or, perhaps, more accurately, those who used to sell slaves now no longer have the currency or strength to control the lives of human beings so they create a lie on a
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supreme court for the same purpose. i have often wondered when i think of the murder of jesus what he and simon the cyprian talked about as simon gave jesus some relief with getting the cross to calgary. we have a bit of an idea what socrates was thinking as he drank hemlock. we want to know what martin luther king wanted to hear music at dinner, play it beautifully for me, before the shots took his life. and there would be many others who were hanged, beaten to death, fought in wars for the right or wrong side. but i have wondered as a person living in virginia how the peanut got here. we know europeans didn't go into communities to find west africans. africans did. we know when communities recognize defeat, they were lined up and brought to shore to be sold.
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but when we don't, we also see a grandmother trying to defend her grandson and failing, reaching to put in his hand a peanut. "don't forget me," she says. he holds tightly to what will be called america, where he is sold. he plants that charge for a promise to keep, and he stays to watch it grow. others would escape and thank him cowardly, but he had promises to keep. others did not understand the strength to wipe spit from your hanging brother, to cradle your daughter after a rape, to lovingly put your wife into the ground. but he had promises to keep and he kept them. virginia is not the peanut state. virginia is the state of promises.
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the only question is, will we keep them? [ applause ] >> sharing remarks from the national park service, please welcome mr. p. daniel smith, deputy director. >> good morning. >> good morning. >> when you're the 11th speaker, especially following these distinguished individuals, and then a poet laureate, then to be followed by a young man who will steal all of our hearts, it's a pretty rough assignment, but as the deputy director of the national park service, i take that responsibility, but i will try to be brief. welcome to all of you today who are distinguished guests. we are grateful for so many for helping to make ft. monroe one
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of the 419 national park units of the national park system. we recognize the important responsibility we have as stewards of ft. monroe national monument and its role in so many facets of our history. since the creation of the national park service in 1916, 103 years ago tomorrow, our duty has been to care for america's extraordinary places and the stories they harbor. certainly, many of our parks are beautiful landscapes, but they are also places where challenging events took place. national parks provide spaces for discussion, for reflection, and our shared american narrative. as we are doing here at ft. monroe today, tomorrow, and into the future.
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the 400th anniversary is a year-long commemoration and conservation -- conversation, to recognize the highlight of 400 years of african-american history and accomplishments. the work of the 400 years of the african-american history commission established by congress and signed into law by president trump last year is administered by the national park service. it will extend through july of 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.
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tomorrow, national parks across the country will join with us here at fort monroe as we ring bells to remember the africans who were brought here in bondage 400 years ago. [ applause ] and the generations of african-americans who struggled, overcame, and continued to strive for civil and social justice today. just imagine tomorrow at the statue of liberty, at independence hall, at acadia national park in maine, the everglades in florida, denali in alaska, at the "u.s.s. arizona" memorial in hawaii. at martin luther king's national historic site in atlanta. at brown versus board of education. at tuskegee national historic site.
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at selma of birmingham. at harriet tubman and the underground railroad. all of us will be in spirit and in strength as we go forward. [ applause ] we are grateful to our many partners who have made this weekend possible, including the commonwealth of virginia, american evolution 2019, the city of hampton. the grassroots organization, project 1619, and hampton roads community, the ft. monroe authority, and the united states armed forces who are supporting this event. i'd like all representatives of the national park service who are here to please stand briefly. [ applause ]
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and then i'd like superintendent terry brown to remain standing. [ applause ] terry -- terry, this is a hallmark day for the national park service. this is what our mission is about. and you as the superintendent of the ft. monroe national monument have brought us to this day, and i commend you for your efforts and leadership to bring us to where we are today. i salute you, superintendent brown. [ applause ] he represents the best of the national park service and,
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governor, i'd like to say that the national park service accepts your challenge to tell these stories as we move toward the 250th anniversary of our declaration in 2026 and that we tell the stories, as you say we need to, with truth and the knowledge of our past. thank you, all, very much. [ applause ] >> with a voice toward our future, please welcome mr. brycen dildy, student at clarksburg middle school in virginia beach. [ applause ]
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>> good morning, everyone. >> good morning. >> my name is brycen dildy. and today i'm honored and delighted to be a youthful voice to help celebrate this occasion. when the first africans landed here at ft. monroe 400 years ago, they may not have known how their sacrifices and contributions would help shape our community and nation. as the years and generations passed, there are also local african-americans who continue to give contributions to society such as catherine johnson, a
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resident of hampton. a mathematician who is known for calculating trajectories for many of nasa's crewed missions. we should also recognize mary jackson who -- [ applause ] who in 1958 became nasa's first black female engineer. [ applause ] and who was born and educated right here in hampton, virginia. [ applause ] i am sure the first africans would be proud of their
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accomplishments, however, there is another way that we can all give back to our community. we could simply start with how we treat one another. [ applause ] are you kind to others daily? i'm not just talking about being kind to friends and family. how about being kind to people you barely know? or do not know at all. i want to share a personal story. earlier this year, my teacher was battling cancer, so i wanted to do something to let her know she wasn't on this journey
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alone. with the help of others, i collected 551 cards to encourage her and brighten her most difficult days ahead. [ applause ] we can all find ways to show kindness to one another. for example, hold the door open for someone walking behind you. or walk around with a smile on your face. your smile may brighten up someone else's day. be helpful to the elderly and disabled.
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pray for our country and others during times of tragedy. create ways to volunteer and help others. tragedy. create ways to volunteer and help others. why do all of this, you may ask? well, in my 11 years of being on this earth, i realize that maya a angelou's quote is true. she said, people may not remember what you say or do, but they never forget how you make them feel. imagine the problems that would be solved if all people were
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kind and felt cared for. it doesn't matter what your race or religion may be. we all deserve kindness. [ applause ] and we all should show kindness. and as we commemorate 400 years of the first africans landing here at fort monroe, let's make them proud. this is more than just a speech. i challenge you to let today also be a celebration of your commitment to become a more caring and kind individual to all.
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thank you, and god bless you all. [ applause ] [ applause ] please welcome the honorable
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mamie e. locke senator of virginia's second district for remarks. [ applause ] >> so i get to follow brycen. [ laughter ] . good morning, and welcome to the second senate district. education and the news media are two critically important institutions that have been involved in the freedom movement here in america. it is with great pride that i stand here today first as an educator, which was and is my role before a became a legislator. as a professor, i have long believed that knowledge is power. power can be productive. but also destructive. when we educate ourselves with the truth and commit to living out that truth, we can change
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our communities for the better. as a student and product of the southern freedom movement, i know intimately that the truth shall indeed set us free. as a legislator i believe that establishing laws that are rooted in truth is crucial to guaranteed freedom and justice for all. the responsibility of the general assembly is to confront this important principle during each session. and the news media is equally responsible. the press has often been a guiding light toward helping the legislative branch of government achieve this important goal. president thomas jefferson was correct to champion the role of the press as a pillar of democracy. as an african-american, the news media, particularly the black press, has been vital to the process of educating and
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aspiring african-americans to persevere toward freedom. from its very beginning, the black press advocated passionately for freedom, education, and self empower mme in 1827, freedom's journal, america's first black newspaper launched with these powerful words. and i quote, "we wish to plead our own cause. too long have others spoken for us. too long has the public been deceived by misrepresentations in things which concern us dearly." these words define the desire and willingness of black people to fight for their freedom to determine their own fate ask. regarding the importance of education, freedom's journal looked towards future generations of african-americans. the editorial continued, and i again quote "education being an
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object of the highest importance to the welfare of society, we shall endeavor to present just and adequate views of it". it is surely time that we should awake from this lethargy of years and make a concentrated effort for the education of our youth. deliberate miseducation was why the institution of slavery stood for so many generations. this wrong yet very real belief that black people were less than human prevailed among many well-educated white men and women. it was not only perpetuated in schools but through writings and images published in the white press. but the black press from
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freedom's journal and other black publications such as the jrm and guide locally held real facts that pushed all media to be more balanced more accurate to become better at telling the truth. now in 2019, as news is consumed in new ways, we face the challenge of inaccurate information spread across the internet and the air waves. lies have threatened our knowledge of each other as americans. we are more educated, yet we seem to have less understanding of the truth. today more than ever we need voices of truth in the media, such as our speaking told. media permits who are dedicated to advocacy that educates and
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moves americans to positive action. it is my honor to introduce van jones a graduate of the university of tennessee and yale law school he worked for economic justice both as a civil rights attorney and environmental activist and is known for his best selling book the green color economy. he worked as supervisor for green jobs for president obama. he is now a host and a comment tater on cnn. please join me in welcoming van jones. i am relieved because nobody is going to remember anything that happened except for brycen. that young man, my goodness! everybody is wiping aware tears listening to that young man. i will save time by just echoing
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and amenning all of the great words of appreciation and all the honors to all the people who are here and just say a few words. i'm a ninth generation american. i'm a ninth generation american. and i'm the first person in my family who was born with all my rights recognized by this country. i am a ninth generation american. and i'm the first person in my family -- so when people say why do you keep talking about these issues? i am not talking about my great, great, great, great, great grandparents, though i could and should. my mother and my father were born under segregation. my father willie anthony jones was born in poverty and segregation in memphis, tennessee. he put himself -- he joined the military. when everybody was running out of the military, my father ran
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in, so he could put himself through college. and he went to a little black college in jackson, tennessee called lane college, and he married the college president's daughter because my father had it like that. my dad had it like that. he knew what he was doing. and after he got out, he and my mother put my uncle milton through college, his little brother and a cousin through college. my entire family got out of poverty on this bridge called my father's back. and when my father died, the picture they put of my father on the funeral program was my father standing in front of yale law school the day i graduated with his hands in the air saying, we did it. we did it. we showed 'em. in one generation, we showed them. just take the foot off our neck a little bit we can go anywhere and compete with anybody.
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my one great pain is that my father lost his battle with cancer before being able to see barack obama enter the white house. and yet in some ways, maybe it's good. pau because my father was not the kind of man who would have taken it easy on me or easy on us. as we look to the future, my father would have asked me, son, how can you be happy to have one black man in the white house, and almost a million black men in the jailhouse and not doing enough about it? he wouldn't be easy on me. and he wouldn't be easy on us. how can you be happy to celebrate a few black billionaires when the average wealth of the black family is going down and down and down to almost zero? he would be tough on us. and he would not accept the
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answer that there are racists in the country, that there are opponents in the country. you know, when i would come home from school and talk about racism at yale, my father would say, did they put any dogs on you, son? well, go on and get your lesson. so, yes, he would say we have to deal with those issues, but my father would also say something, which i want to share with you, that when you have the right strategy, it's hard to hurt you. and when you have the wrong strategy it is hard to help you. and when your enemy down grades, you have got to upgrade your approach. and as we now look to the next 400 years, we often have black history month. and i love black history month. and we need more black history. i shouldn't just be a month.
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but i would sometimes feel tempted to trade at least one black history month for a black future weekend. can we talk about the black future? can we talk about where we are going? and can we talk about what is necessary to get there? as we look at the next 400 years. we've learned a tough lesson in the obama white house. we believe that we had got tony the mountain top that dr. king talked about. but when we got to that mountain top we realized that our sisters and brothers in haiti who had been dropped off by other boats were correct when they say behind the mountain is another mountain. that achievement in 2008 was not the end. it was the beginning of a new journey. and behind the mountain of washington, d.c. there are other mountains of power.
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there are four centers of power in our country. and we did not know that until we got to washington, d.c. we spent most the last century trying to get to washington, d.c. frederick douglass went to d.c. to talk to lincoln. dr. king, a young preach e marched on washed hoping a president would do better. broem broem went the white house. our entire strategy entirely focused on washington, d.c. and when we turned that corner of power it turned out there were three years that we didn't know anything about. if we are going to be honest this is work left to be done in washington, d.c. and i am proud to be under the leadership and tutelage of bobby scott doing that work to deal with mass incarceration, to deal with the industrial prison complex. i'm proud that in washed bobby scott is bringing conservatives and liberals together to do something about incarceration because conservatives believe in
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liberty and liberals believe in justice, and our incarceration industry denies liberty and justice to too many people. that's why basketbally scott is such a champion for liberty and justice for all. i love this brother. and he's my leader. but d.c. is only one corner of a four-corner power system. if you leave washington, d.c. and get on the train and go north just a few hours, you are in new york city. wall street. finance. big capital. very few african-americans there. i want to make sure that the next generation sitting in our classrooms will study robert smith, the african-american who was beginning to dominate wall street as much as we study anybody else. big money. big power.
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wall street. if you leave wall street, take an uber or a lyft or a taxi and you go to the airport, jfk, you can fly across the country. win five hours you are in the bay area, northern california, silicon valley. where you have google, apple, facebook, amazon, the people who are building the future. we used to write the future in laws. in washington, d.c. now the future is being written in computer code in silicon valley. they are changing your phone right now and not asking your permission. the power to write and to dictate the future is in silicon valley. very few african-americans in silicon valley. our children are happy to be given the opportunity to download apps, not being taught
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how to write their own and upload apps. we need a generation of uploaders, not just downloaders for the next generation if we are going to get anywhere. that's another corner of power. lastly, you could take a leisurely drive from northern california to southern california, and you will very quickly be in a place called hollywood. and you can see stars not just in the sky but on the sidewalks. another place of power where too often we are the stars but we don't own the studios. media ownership, in an information age. another mountain to climb. i say this to you because the way we got here was because african-americans and our allies were willing to look coldly,
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clearly, and honestly at the challenges that they faced. and with less than we have, with less technology, with less money, with less support, with less understanding, they met every single challenge up to this day. they understood that sometimes you have to have an evolution in the revolution. sometimes you have to have an evolution in the revolution. when your enemy down grades sometimes you have to upgrade. and we are now at that moment. and i am confident that we can meet this moment and meet this challenge and climb the mountain of policy in d.c., finance in wall street, technology in silicon valley, media ownership in hollywood, and any other mountains that are revealed to us. because african-american people and our close allies have been
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the driving force for progress and democracy on these shores lo these 400 years. and do not forget, the original fake news -- was told in 1776. when they said -- and maybe even believed that we had created, that we had founded a democratic republic on these shores, on one day in 1776. fake news. we hadn't yet founded a democratic republic. we had begun the process. but frederick douglass, and harriet tubman, standing up to
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end slavery, were founders, too, of a democratic republic. they, too, were founders. the suffragettes. demanding that women have the right to vote, that they be included, were a part of founding a democratic republic. they were founders, too. ella joe bake, he fanny low him a earning dr. martin luther king. challenging, segregation, demanding that we live up to these principles. they were founders, too. the folks who stood up at stonewall and said stop mistreating us because of who we lot. they were founders, too. the process of founding a truly multiracial, multiclass democratic republic, the toughest job ever taken on by
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any people in the world. to have one country with every kind of human being ever born living within it, one country with every race w every faith, with every gender presentation, with every sexuality, every kind of human being ever born in one place living as a democracy, as a democratic republic, the toughest challenge taken on ever, by any people on earth. that challenge is a challenge that was taken on centuries ago. and we will be working to develop it centuries from now. but what that challenge means for us today is that you are a founder. you are a founder. the people on this stage are founding the republic that the brycens of the world will live in. and we have the take our charge and our time as seriously as the people before us did so that
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some day, some day when we put our hands on our heart we will have a democratic republic with liberty and justice for all. thank you very much. [ applause ] please welcome the honorable justin e. fairfax, lieutenant governor of virginia. good morning, everyone. i am deeply honored to be here with you all today with this distinguished array of wonderful public servants. i thank you all for your leadership, for your inspiration, for all that you do on behalf of the commonwealth of virginia and on behalf of this nation. i recognize all those who previously have been recognized here in the audience.
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thank you all for your service. i also wanted to especially recognize a couple of dear friends who have been instrumental in this commemoration weekend and have given their heart and soul to making this so successful. to the co-chairman of the hampton commemoration commission, lieutenant cole clawed van, iii, and dr. cole eata nichols fairfax. i want to recognize them. if they would stand and please take a bow. thank you for your tremendous, f leadership, for all that you have done. i am grateful to be joined by my wonderful family, my wife, dr. is a reapa fairfax, our children and my mother-in-law. thank you all the ashton branch of the fairfax family. we grateful you made the trip to be with us here. there is also a group here on fort monroe that i wanted to recognize who has not yet been i
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believe properly recognized. if you anywhere on this fort are the descendant of anyone who has been enslaved, whether you know their name or not, i would be honored, if you are able to please stand and be recognized by all of us. we are grateful. you are the legacy that we are here to commemorate and to celebrate. let us please recognize all of those who represent the best of who we are in virginia and in this nation, the foundational part of why we are here today. we've heard a lot this morning, rightfully so, with truth. there is power in the truth. there is power in knowing our history. there is power in knowing from whence we came. during the week of our inauguration in january of 2018, i learned how my family got the last name fairfax.
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it was discovered that week in the old fairfax county courthouse a manu mission document that had agreed -- an emancipation document that freed my great, great, great grandfather from slavery in virginia on june 5th, 1798. he was freed by a man named thomas fairfax, the ninth lord fairfax. my father got copy of that document two days before our inauguration. he gave a copy of it to me and i saw it for the first time in my life 20 minutes before i walked out on the capital on inauguration day to talk the office in the commonwealth. i had that document in my breast pocket. so 220 years later, simon fairfax's great great great grandson was being sworn in as the number two in command of the very same state where he had
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been enslaved. god is good and the arc of our universe is long but it ultimately bends toward justice. and today, we mark this commemoration to ensure that the world will always remember how the united states of america got its start and the enslaved africans whose labor and lives are foundational to the beginning and the success of our nation. we stand today on sacred and hallow ground from which spraining the foundation of america. we also stand at the you a inspiring -- at the awe inspiring intersection of 400 years of a very complex history. a history filled with the dual strands of darkness and light that have run through the veins of the commonwealth of virginia, and through our nation for
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centuries. a history of tragedy, and triumph, of pain, and promise, of slavery and salvation, of opposition and opportunity, a history of heart break and hope. at this intersection, we must decide what the next 400 years will look like in this land that we love. we must decide whether we finally abandon the racism, sexism, dehumanization, unequal treatment under the law, and racial and economic subjugation that met the 20-some-odd africans as they were forced to land on this very spot 400 years ago. we must decide whether in the next 400 years we will rise to the better angels of our nature. there is power in the truth. for generations, americans have
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been taught that the first enslaved africans arrived in jamestown in 1619. today, however, we raise up the truth, that they in fact were forced to land right here, 40 miles southeast, in point comfort, modern day hampton, virginia. the truth is that among that small band of brave surviving souls on the white lion were antony and isabella, who would later find love even in the midst of enslavement to produce william tucker the first named african child born in english north america. yesterday, eight miles up the road we commemorated the 400-year milestone of the tucker family cemetery with the beautiful descendants of that great legacy. as i stood there on those hallowed grounds at a cemetery
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that represented life more than it represented death i thought about the famous quote, they try to bury us, but they didn't know we were seeds. the tucker family's story is the african-american story. but it's also the american story. we, as a people, have triumphed over obstacles no others have. and we will do it again and again. we built this country. do not tell us to go back where we came from. [ applause ] we have found victory over systematic subjugation, and seen our way through. we have prevailed over lies and succeeded against all odds. no one can stop us. we have made a way out of no
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way. we should be proud of it all. we stand on the shoulders of the strongest ancestors in world history, ancestors whose faith, resilience, perseverance, and love have allowed us to rise in spite of all the many obstacles created to stop our progress. in the famous and immortal words of the great maya ang, lou, out of the huts of history's shame i rise, up from a past that's rooted in pain, i rise. i'm a black ocean leaping and wide, welling and swelling i bear in the tide. leaving behind nights of terror and fear, i rise. into a day break that's wondrously clear, i rise. bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, i am the dream
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and the hope of the slave. i rise. i rise. i rise. it is said that antony, isabella, and the 20-some-odd africans came here with nothing. but that's not quite true either. having nothing would not have allowed them to survive the brutal months-long journey from angola to where we stand today, in the bowels of wooden ships. having nothing would not have permitted their spirits to believe in the capacity of love even as hate and degradation was their daily reality. having nothing would not have allowed them to continue to burn the flame of hope in the seemingly unending midnight of slavery. what they had was spiritual wealth. the faith, values, the
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compassion, the love of others and the belief that tomorrow could be brighter than today. see, the truth is, for centuries we have sailed masterfully in rough seas, over alternating waves of progress and high tides of adversity powered by the unflagging winds of faith and hope, and ever steered in the direction of liberation and uplift. we have carried each successive generation to lands of opportunity, hoped and prayed for by prior ones. the pace of our progress is sometimes painfully slow, and at other times breath takingly rapid. but in the brad sweep of our collective journey, because our moral compass remains true, we always make progress. we always rise together. that is the nature of our story
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in america. it is the hallmark of who we are. and now it is our time to rigwr another chapter in the great story of america. i believe it will be a chapter where we continue to see the best of who we are because i have an unwavering belief in the fundamental decency good will and humanity of the people of virm and america. comforted by the god of our weary years and the god of our silent tears and with our eyes focused firmly on the promised land, we will rise to the clairient call of history and to the better angels of our nature together. god bless you all. god bless antony, isz bella, the 20 odd enslaved africans, william tucker, the commonwealth of virginia, and the united states of america. we will rise together. god bless you all. thank you.
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[ applause ] . to deliver today's benediction welcome monsignor wallet barrewalter barrett jr. >> my sisters and brothers, let us bow our heads in prayer, invoking the presence of god. god of our weary years, god of our silent tears, thou who has brought us thus far, thou who has by thy might let us into the light keep us forever in the
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path we pray. lest our feet stray from the places, our god, where we met thee, lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee, shadowed beneath thy hand, may we forever stand true to our god, true to our native land. may god protect us and bless us and keep us all from evil. amen. amen. amen. please join me in thanking all of our presenters today as we welcome back to the stage the icnorcum high school choir for our final performance, lift every voice and sing.
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♪ ♪ [ applause ] all week, we are featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on c-span3. lectures in history, american artifacts, real america, the civil war, oral histories, the presidency, and special event coverage about our nation's history. enjoy american history tv now, and every weekend, on c-span3.
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this holiday week, american history tv is on c-span3 every day with primetime features each unite at 9:00. tonight a discussion on aviation with aviation writer and filmmaker paul glen shaw on the first u.s. military airplane, the 1909 wright flyer. tuesday, the near 1969, with woodstock, free speech, and the gay rights movement. new year's day, wednesday, the 30th anniversary of the fall of the berlin wall. thursday, the forgotten ballots of the civil war. and friday, the 75th anniversary of the battle of the bulge, where adolph hitler launched a surprise kousht attack against allied forces. watch american history tv all this week and every weekend on c-span3. american history tv products
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are now available at the new c-span on line store. go to c-span to see what's new for american history tv. and check out all of the c-span products. 2019 marked the 400 of the anniversary of the start of forced migration of africans into slavery in what's now known as the united states. the study of african-american life and history talks about the importance of slave site preservations, the color line theory, civil rights and the criminal justice system. from earlier this year, this is about two hours. good afternoon. [ laughter ] thank you again for joining us


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