News & Politics

There Will Be Commemorations of Slavery’s Anniversary All Over DC this Weekend

Here's where to see them.

The Old Post Office Tower. Photo courtesy of NPS Photo

In August 1619, the first British ship carrying “20 and odd” enslaved Africans docked on the shores of what is now the Fort Monroe National Monument in Hampton, Va. This Sunday, August 25, marks the 400-year anniversary of the landing, an event credited by historians as the beginning of African slavery in colonial America.

The milestone is being marked around Washington, too. On Sunday the National Park Service will host public events at its parks across the area. At 3 PM, the District parks will join hundreds of other NPS organizations around the nation to ring bells for four minutes, one minute for each century.

From the Old Post Office to Maryland battlefields, heres where you can commemorate the significant date.

Georgetown Waterfront
3303 Water St., NW 
From the morning until mid-afternoon, park rangers will be offering brief historical tours of the waterfront. At 2 PM, NPS and the Georgetown African American Historic Landmark Project & Tour will host speakers and lay a wreath at the waterfront’s meditation labyrinth, commemorating the slaves that docked along Georgetown’s shores in 1732.

Frederick Douglass National Historic Site
1411 W St., SE
The Cedar Hill home is preserved as the abolitionist leader’s final residence. The site will be giving tours in the morning, and will ring a bell at 3 PM. Afterwards, there will be a group reading of Douglass’ “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”, a speech Douglass gave to the Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society in 1852.

Old Post Office
1100 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
To be heard across the National Mall, the Washington Ringing society will be ringing the Bells of Congress at 3 PM. Kept in the tower of the Old Post Office, the bells are only rung on federal holidays and special occasions.

Carter G. Woodson Home and Mary McLeod Bethune Council House
1538 Ninth St., NW; 1318 Vermont Ave., NW
Both homes, historical sites in Shaw that commemorate two of the country’s most significant African American historians, will be open. DC Strings, a nonprofit classical music ensemble, will be preforming at the Woodson Home at 2:40 PM prior to the bell ringing, followed by a tour. Then after the 3 PM bells, a NPS ranger will be giving a talk in front of the Bethune Council House, also followed by a tour.

Monocacy National Battlefield
5201 Urbana Pike, Frederick
In 1864, the Confederacy surprised Union troops in Frederick, Maryland at the Battle of Monocacy. On Sunday, the NPS will honor the members of the U.S Colored Troops who were enlisted at Monocacy Junction, along with the slaves who worked on six historical farms prior to the Civli War. Prior to the 3 PM bells, there will be a reading of their names.

Additional DC-area sites participating in the 3 PM commemoration include the Oxon Hill Farm, Fort Washington, Lincoln Park, Prince William Forest Park, and the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.

The Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site. Photo courtesy of NPS Photo.

Kalina Newman
Editorial Fellow

Kalina Newman is an editorial fellow for Washingtonian. Previously, she covered metro news for the Boston Globe. Her work has appeared in ARLnow, DCist, and the Washington City Paper. Kalina graduated from Boston University in 2019 with a degree in journalism.