A celebration of perseverance: Panel discussion shows importance of first African landing in Virginia

HAMPTON, Va. - This weekend marks one of the pivotal moments in American history.

Four centuries ago, the first enslaved Africans were brought to Virginia at Fort Monroe in Hampton.

"Each person should do something to highlight the ancestors in their lives," said panelist Gloria Browne-Marshall.

That’s exactly how the event inside the Hampton University Memorial Chapel started, followed by the Black National Anthem, "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing."

People filled the pews as they were taken back in time to the story of the first African landing.

The panel discussion was called “400 Years of Perseverance."

“Not 400 years of slavery, not 400 years of oppression - but 400 years of courageous people getting over, past and around obstacles," said Browne-Marshall.

Historians and educators took turns at the podium to discuss topics from education to criminal justice.

Attendees say listening in on this discussion was important.

“This is an historic area with the history that not only does the state of Virginia need to know about, but the nation," said John Downing Jr., who was in attendance at Friday's panel.

The speakers said they hope that everyone who walked out of the chapel doors leaves with new information and a better understanding of their history.

Related: William & Mary receives grant to continue researching their history of slavery 

“I think it was a celebration of perseverance," said another attendee, Caroline Lebar.

And a foundation for the future.

"We have another generation that we need to be thinking about when it comes to freedom. When we think about our past 400 years, we need to think about our future 400 years as well," Browne-Marshall told us.

Click here for a full schedule of events during the 1619-2019 Commemoration of the First African Landing.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.