Posted in Seeing Race and Racism

The Difficult Truth of 1619 — #3

A blog category examining the difficult truth found in The 1619 Project.

In late August, 1619, 20-30 enslaved Africans landed at Point Comfort, today’s Fort Monroe in Hampton, Va., aboard the English privateer ship White Lion. In Virginia, these Africans were traded in exchange for supplies. Several days later, a second ship (Treasurer) arrived in Virginia with additional enslaved Africans. Both groups had been captured by English privateers from the Spanish slave ship San Juan Bautista. They are the first recorded Africans to arrive in England’s mainland American colonies.

Thomas Jefferson and Truth

Mount Rushmore
Thomas Jefferson

“In June 1776, Thomas Jefferson sat at his portable writing desk in a rented room in Philadelphia and penned these famous words. ‘We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’”

“For the last two and a half centuries, this fierce assertion of the fundamental and natural rights of humankind to freedom and self-governance has defined our global reputation as a land of liberty.”

“As Jefferson composed his inspiring words, however, a teenage boy who would enjoy none of these rights and liberties waited nearby to serve at his master’s beck and call.“

“His name was Robert Hemings, and he was the half-Black brother of Jefferson‘s wife Martha, born to her father and a woman he enslaved. It was common and profitable for white enslavers to keep their half-Black children in slavery.”

“Jefferson, who would later hold in slavery his own children by Heming’s sister Sally, had chosen Robert Hemings, from among about 130 enslaved people who worked on the forced-labor camp he called Monticello, to accompany him to Philadelphia and ensure his every comfort as he drafted the text making the case for a new republican union based on the individual rights of men.” The 1619 Project


WHY do so many have such white fragility toward admitting this documented and obvious truth—that slavery built our nation early on? Why can’t we simply come clean and admit it? Allow truth a chance to heal us.

5 thoughts on “The Difficult Truth of 1619 — #3

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