National Cathedral to Toll Funeral Bell for 400th Anniversary of US Slavery's Start

August marks 400 years since more than 30 enslaved Africans arrived in Virginia

The bells will toll on Sunday.

The Washington National Cathedral will ring its largest funereal bell for one minute on Sunday to honor the first enslaved Africans who landed in North America, 400 years ago this month.

The 12-ton Bourdon Bell will be tolled starting at 3 p.m. Sunday, the Cathedral announced Friday.

"As the bell that we ring to commemorate loss, the Bourdon Bell strikes a solemn but important note in our community and our faith tradition," Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, dean of the Cathedral, said in a statement.

"400 years after the first slaves were brought to this continent against their will, we ring it to both honor and recognize their strength in the face of injustice and dehumanization, and to work toward a better, more just and more equitable world moving forward," Hollerith continued. 

Houses of worship around the country are expected to ring bells at the same time.

Several events in Virginia this weekend mark the arrival of more than 30 enslaved Africans on the Chesapeake Bay in August 1619.

The men and women who came from what is now Angola arrived on two ships and were traded for food and supplies from English colonists. The landing is a pivotal moment in American history, setting the stage for a system of race-based slavery that continues to haunt the nation.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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