Opinion Only: H.R 1242 (400 years of Hebrew History
H.R. 1242, the “400 Years of African-American History Commission Act,” which establishes the 400 Years of African-American History Commission to plan activities to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of African-Americans in the United States.
In August 1619, the first documented Africans arrived in the English colony of Virginia. The group, recorded upon arrival as “20 and odd Negros,” was part of a larger group of West Africans enslaved by Portugese slavetraders. They were on their way to Vera Cruz aboard a Portugese ship, when they were captured off the coast of Mexico by the White Lion, an English warship, flying a Dutch flag, and operating under Dutch letters of marque. The White Lion transported them to Virginia, where they were put ashore at Old Point Comfort, in what is now Hampton, Virginia, and sold as involuntary laborers or indentured servants. Slavery had not been institutionalized at that point so these Africans were informed they would work under contract for a certain period of time before being granted freedom and the rights afforded other settlers. White indentured servants were listed along with their year of expected freedom whereas no such year accompanied the names of the African indentured servants. The historic arrival of the group of “20 and odd Negros”’ marked the beginning of the trend in colonial America where people of Africa were taken unwillingly from their homeland, transplanted, and committed to lifelong slavery and racial discrimination. August 2019 will mark 400 years since the first arrival of Africans to present day America. There is an interest in commemorating the contributions that Americans of African descent have made to help shape the cultural, academic, social, economic, and moral attributes of this nation. A federal “400 Years of African-American History Commission” would mark this historic heritage.