Commemoration of slavery in the US - Maxicours

Commemoration of slavery in the US

Objectifs
  • Découvrir un aspect de la notion d'étude territoire et mémoire
  • Approfondir ses connaissances sur l'histoire esclavagiste des États-Unis
Points clés
  • Le premier navire ayant emmené des esclaves aux États-Unis a débarqué en 1619.
  • Au total, ce sont pas moins de 600 000 Africains qui ont été arrachés à leur terre, et conduit de force pour travailler dans les plantations du Sud des États-Unis pour les propriétaires Blancs en recherche de main d'oeuvre à exploiter.
  • Cela dura jusqu'en 1865, quand Abraham Lincoln abolit l'esclavage en Amérique et mit ainsi fin aux sévices que ces personnes enduraient.
  • Les esclaves et leurs descendants ont façonné le paysage culturel et social de l'Amérique.
  • 13 % de la population américaine d'aujourd'hui est afro-américaine.
  • En 2019 a été commémorée pendant 3 jours l'arrivée de ce premier navire. C'est un devoir d'entretenir cette mémoire, pour ne pas oublier, et continuer de panser les plaies de cette période douloureuse de l'Histoire.

In 2019 the USA celebrated the beginning of slavery in North America as 400 years before, in August 1619, a British ship landed in Virginia with 20 slaves aboard. The story has it that about 350 people had been kidnapped from their villages in what is now Angola by Portuguese colonists, but as they were sailing towards Mexico they were intercepted by British pirates sailing on the White Lion, and the crew robbed part of the cargo, including the slaves who had not died during the crossing.

1. 246 Years of Slavery

Thousands of people gathered at Fort Hampton, Virginia, to commemorate the arrival of the first slaves in America, when the White Lion landed at a place then called Point Comfort (!). Though it is said that the first founders of the nation were the Pilgrim Fathers who arrived on the Mayflower in 1620, we must acknowledge that one year before a group of African slaves had set foot on the continent against their will, and their importance in the making of the nation must not be lessened. It is worth noting too that slaves had been imported from Africa to Bermuda before 1619.

The 400th anniversary is of course one of the most terrible moments in the history of the country as about 600,000 slaves were uprooted (from Senegal, Gambia, Angola, Mali, Gabon, Congo) and transported to America, a very long way from their families that they never saw again. There, they had to work on plantations (of sugar cane, tobacco, cotton, rice) for the Whites who needed workforce as the nation was beginning to grow. They did not know they would be slaves for a long time, 246 years, until 1865 when Abraham Lincoln decided to abolish slavery in America.

As Terry Brown, the first African American superintendent at Fort Monroe (the place where General Lee’s Confederate Army was stationed between 1831 and 1834) puts it:

They were enslaved for 246 years so they lived under the most oppressive conditions imaginable but they managed to reinvent themselves… They created new music and new art forms and new families. It’s one of the greatest stories and it’s amazing that they survived it.

They really managed to shape the cultural landscape of the country.

Today, African Americans represent about 13 % of the population and they deserve consideration for all the cruelties (like whipping, beating, mutilation, imprisonment) that were inflicted upon them during the years of slavery.

2. Commemoration Day

On 25 August 2019, thousands of people gathered in Hampton to whisper prayers for the enslaved Africans and for those who died during the voyage, and to send flower petals into the Chesapeake Bay. The atmosphere was tense and the people could feel the weight of the past on their shoulders.
There, they could remember and reflect on what had happened there 400 years before as conferences and lectures were given to explain the difficult situation that their ancestors had endured on the American soil.

The commemoration lasted three days and the last day of the program was designated as "Healing Day". Then, a bell rang continuously for four minutes as slavery started four centuries ago, and people across the country were invited to ring bells too so as to "capture the spirit of healing and reconciliation."

3. Conclusion

The history of America started with bonds and chains, and it is important to remember it, that is the reason why commemorations are necessary. They remind people where they come from and what happened before them. In the USA some people arrived on slave ships in tragic circumstances and they have managed to get rid of those chains and rise to occupy the most prestigious positions such as engineers, lawyers, doctors and even presidents.

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