Truth, Respect, Empathy, and Hope
The African Landing Memorial will commemorate an historical event that impacted the history of this nation and forever challenges the concept of freedom and democracy. The Memorial recognizes the resilience and courage of the men and women from Angola who were forcibly brought to Point Comfort (present day Fort Monroe in Hampton, VA) in 1619. It will be placed on land that belonged for thousands of years to Indigenous Peoples and was used for hunting and fishing by the Kikotan tribe from the 16th Century until their village was destroyed by the English colonists in 1610.
The first Africans, kidnapped and brought to English North America, came from the kingdoms of Kongo, and Ndongo and Matamba, the two largest states in central Africa ruled by an elected King chosen from a line of royal lineages. The highly advanced societies were invaded by the Portuguese in the late 1400s who in the ensuing decades meddled in the affairs of the African continent and eventually set in motion the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
In 1619 the São João Bautista sailed from the Port of Luanda, Angola laden with over 350 enslaved Africans bound for Vera Cruz in the colony of New Spain. The horrors of the middle passage across the Atlantic are unimaginable. As the slave ship transited the Bay of Campeche, two English privateer ships, the White Lion and Treasurer attacked the São João Bautista and seized 60 Africans. The privateers, looking for refuge and supplies, sailed north until reaching Point Comfort in August 1619. The enslaved Africans were brought ashore and traded for supplies after which they were sold to colonists throughout the area.
This historical event changed the course of the history from the early years of the Virginia colony, to the founding of America and into the future. The perseverance, resiliency and courage of the men and women who landed at Point Comfort ensured the survival of the nascent colony and enriched those who exploited them
Slavery in the English colonies began with this happen chance as did the collision of three cultures: Indigenous, African and European. Oftentimes violence and destruction were the result of the encounter, but so is the fusion of practices that are seen in many aspects of American culture, such as the preparation of foods, music, language and oral traditions.
The African Landing Memorial at Fort Monroe seeks to interpret this historical event beginning with the origins of the people—what their life might have been like prior to their abduction, the journey across thousands of miles of ocean– to their landing at Point Comfort and the lives they made for themselves.Learn More About the History
Who is Involved
The Fort Monroe Authority, the Fort Monroe National Monument, numerous organizations and members of the descendant community, are working towards the creation of a memorial near the site of the landing of the first enslaved Africans at Point Comfort, present day Fort Monroe in Hampton, VA. For decades local citizens have fought to ensure the true narrative was told and to inform the public that the landing occurred at Point Comfort. They called for the creation of a monument in 2004 and three years later succeeded at having a state historical marker placed on the sea wall at Fort Monroe (which was later replaced, at their urging, in 2015 with more accurate information). In 2010, members of the community came together to create Project 1619, Inc.–a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving this important history. The success of the 400th Commemoration in 2019 at Fort Monroe is a direct result of their unwavering and continued perseverance. Organizations, such as Project 1619, Inc. and The William Tucker 1624 Society, continue to inform the design and creation of the memorial. It is anticipated that the project will take several more years to complete and will be open to the public in 2026.Read More About Our Team and Partners
The Sculpture: Three Elements
This one-of-a-kind sculpture consists of three elements: The Relief, The Figures, The Arc. The sculpted Relief, situated on a semi-elliptical surface in a park setting, will be 25’ long and 9’ high and oriented on a direct line of sight to Angola from where first Africans originated. One side of the Relief will capture their debarkation from the White Lion at Point Comfort in August of 1619. The reverse side will have several panels designed to depict the story of the first Africans from their life in Africa, to their capture and subsequent voyage on the middle passage, their exchange for victuals, and their first ten years in Virginia. The memorial will culminate in a sculpture of three Figures–the first child of African parents to be baptized in the colony, cradled lovingly in their arms representing the future. The Arc will stand at 34’ tall and hold a flame representing hope.Read More About the Sculpture
After a nation-wide search and vigorous process, Brian R. Owens was introduced at the 400 Year Commemoration of the Landing of the First Africans as the selected artist to design and sculpt the memorial to mark the 1619 historical event. Brian is a second-generation, professional sculptor and painter with clients from southern Florida to Michigan to California. He is best known for monumental bronze sculpture in public places and fine, museum quality oil portraiture. Brian shared, “Art is not something I do, it’s who I am. I didn’t choose to be an artist, it chose me.”Read More About the Sculptor
Selecting the best site for the memorial is an important step in the overall planning process. The elements of the memorial will be placed in a site designed specifically for it. Landscaping, paving materials, and lighting will be purposefully chosen to reflect the cultural aspects for which the memorial reflects.
Criteria for consideration of where to place the memorial included:
- Needs to be near the water
- Should be easily accessible
- Provide a place for contemplation and reflection
Historic maps and engineering drawings were consulted, and archaeological investigations continue in preparation of the site. Concept plans are being prepared.Read More About the Site Design Process
Share your thoughts and ideas – send us your questions – come and visit the future site of the memorial at Fort Monroe, Virginia.
Start at the Visitor & Education Center, 30 Ingalls Rd (Wednesday-Sunday, 9:30am-4:30pm) where staff can provide an orientation to the site, information on its history and engage in dialog with you about the future of the memorial.Visit Us!