By George Kevin Jordan, AFRO Staff Writer
The Association for the Study of African LIfe and History (ASALH) kicked off the first, of a year long commemoration, of the “Forced migration of Africans to the Virginia Colony in 1619.”
The event was held Feb. 1 at the National Press Club, 529 14th Street, NW.
ASALH was founded in 1915 by Dr. Carter G. Woodson. The organization is tasked with promoting, researching, preserving, interpreting and disseminating information about Black life, history and culture to the global community,” according to its mission. ASALH also founded Black History Month.
The 2019 theme is Black Migrations which focuses on the movement of people of African descent to new places. While all encompassing, the theme zeroes in on the early part of the twentieth century. Patterns of movement included the trek from southern farms, to southern cities, the pilgrimage from the south to the north, midwest and West, the caribbean to U.S. cities as well as the patterns of African Americans to Africa and European meccas like London and Paris.
Dr. Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, the National President of ASALH and Chair of the History Department at Harvard University spoke of the long complicated history of movement for people of the African Diaspora.
“Migration represents one of the most important aspects of our nation’s past,” Dr. Higginbotham said. “The very title of the book “A nation of immigrants” written by President John F. Kennedy captures the centrality of migration to the makeup of the American people.
“However for African Americans the history of migration has a unique meaning – that of forced migration in the form of the African Slave Trade to America that ended by law, but not always in practice, in 1808. And the domestic human trafficking – we call it the the domestic slave trade – that continued until the abolition of slavery in 1865.”
“These are stories of families separated, of children taken from parents and such pain was overwhelming and heartbreaking for families then as it is now for children separated from their parents in the Hispanic migrants that seek asylum in America.”
Dr. Higginbotham said that the history of migration is vast, but ASALH gives, “special attention to the year 1619 when Africans arrived on two slave ships in the Virginia colony, the first permanent english settlement in North America.”
A group of scholarships helped to unpack the long and complicated history of the African Diaspora and migration over the past 400 years during a panel discussion. Panelists included Professor Gloria Browne-Marshall, ASALH 400th Commemorative Chair and Professor of Constitutional Law at John Jay College of Criminal Justice CUNY, Mr. Brent Leggs, director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Senior Associate Dean and Research Professor of Law at George Washington law School Roger A. Fairfax and Spencer Crew, professor of US History at George Mason University.
National News Desk Editor at USA Today Nichelle Smith announced the Feb. 18 release of The Black Migrations theme of USA TODAY’s 2019 Black History Month Special Edition, “Exodus.”
Next up will be the 93rd Annual Black History Luncheon held Feb. 16 held at the Washington Renaissance Hotel, 999 9th Street, NW. An author’s event will precede the luncheon. For more information on that event go to www.asalh.org/luncheon. For additional information about ASALH and the 400th Commemoration please visit https://asalh.org/400-years.