By Rebecca S. Jones
HOUSTON – August 20, 1619 marks a day in American history where Our Ancestors (over 20 Africans) arrived on the shores of Virginia near a place called Port Comfort (present-day Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia). The irony, however, is that this group of Africans, who were brutally and forcefully stolen from their homeland, would experience everything but Comfort in the centuries to follow.
As it was the African slaves who were brought to this country were made to build a land which would never rightfully become their own. They were subjected to numerous forms of punishment including: being whipped; shackled and bound; unmercifully beat on; underwent mutilation of their bodies; some were branded to show ownership, or simply to be made out of a mockery; many faced wrongful imprisonment; and of course lynching and being murdered was the final phase of punishment.
In many cases these forms of punishment were the result of some type of disobedience; but there were also times that slaves were mistreated due to the assertion of dominance from their Masters’. During this era, slaves of both genders were raped, along with many other violent and torturous acts.
Our ancestors, as disempowered and uneducated as they were, became indentured servants who proved to be the greatest asset to the land of America. According to, James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom, “In , the nearly 4 million American slaves were worth some $3.5 billion, making them the largest single financial asset in the entire U.S. economy, worth more than all manufacturing and railroads combined.” In fact, if American history was accurately told, it is the slaves who worked to make America one of the most powerful and richest countries in the world today.
While they were maligned and preyed upon in many instances, they still continued to work towards the advancement of an America which considered them three-fifths a person. Although enslaved by law, it was Our Ancestors’ faith and minds which made them free. Many of them understood that, “a person is only captive in their mind.” Despite the fact that the Democracy they lived in, was founded on core ideals which were a lie; it was their volition, self-sacrifice and struggle which later made it reign true.
Made in America
“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” – Frederick Douglass
As our readers well know, African-American News & Issues exists to address current and historical realities affecting our communities. Further, it has been our mission to tell Our Story to Our People in a language in which they can understand. In doing so, we celebrate Black History (Our Story) year-round. This is why we continuously aim to promote positive and influential leaders from within our communities on a weekly basis. America and mainstream media have done a good enough job casting a negative light on African-Americans. Thus, we wish to “plead our own cause,” because for too long others have told Our Story from their perspectives’.
That being stated, in doing Life Stories on some of the most influential Blacks our race has produced, I have found a single commonality. Majority of our featured individuals have attributed their success to a figure within the household who encouraged them to, “Be better than me”. That principle is one which has withstood the test of time. Since, 1619 each generation has been encouraging the next to “take the torch further”.
So here in 2019, if we were to clearly look at the big picture throughout these last four centuries in terms of Black History we would find; out of slavery and oppression came forth power and resilience. Had it not been for the struggle Our Ancestors endured, we would have no knowledge of people like: Frederick Douglass, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Barbara Jordan, Mayor Sylvester Turner, Harriet Tubman, Cicely Tyson, Sojourner Truth, Roy Douglas Malonson, Pastor F.N. Williams, Ovide Duncantell, Alfre Woodard, Madam C. J. Walker, President Barack & First Lady Michelle Obama; and sure the list is endless when spelling out African-American men and women who made great strides and contributions to American culture to ensure that each generation double-mirrored their successes.