Bells toll in U.S. to mark anniversary of beginning of slavery

Bells tolled Sunday at houses of worship, municipal buildings and national parks across the U.S. to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the beginning of slavery in the U.S.

The bell ringing is part of a national initiative to get Americans to recognize the historical importance of the arrival of the Africans in Virginia, then a British colony, at the end of Aug. 1619.

The Washington National Cathedral rang its largest funereal bell for one minute starting at 3 pm (1900 GMT) to mark the anniversary. Churches in Boston, Atlanta and other major cities were expected to join, as was the U.S. National Park Service.

The bells were rung to recognise the strength of the Africans in the face of injustice and dehumanization, Reverend Randolph Marshall Hollerith, dean of Washington National Cathedral, said in a statement.

Several events were held in Virginia over the weekend to mark the arrival of the enslaved Africans who came from a part of south-east coast of Africa that is now Angola.

That trade of the Africans for food at Point Comfort – now Fort Monroe, Virginia – is considered by many historians to be the beginning of slavery in the British colonies, a pivotal moment in American history that set the stage for the U.S. Civil War, segregation, lynchings, race riots and struggles with race relations that continue today.

The National Park Service encouraged all 419 parks in its system to ring bells for four minutes – one minute for each century since the slave trade began.

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