Atlanta marks 400 years since 1st enslaved Africans arrived in colonies

A new exhibit focused on slavery at the APEX museum will be on display until February.

ATLANTA — Four hundred years ago this week, the first enslaved Africans were brought to the British colony of Virginia.

Those roughly two dozen Africans were the start of a centurieslong tide of black people sold into bondage and brought to toil in what would become the United States.

Channel 2's Audrey Washington was at a new exhibit at the African American Panoramic Experience (APEX) Museum on slavery, which will run through Black History Month in February.

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Inside is a replica of the Door of No Return. The actual location in Africa marks where Africans waited in slave dungeons before they were put on ships and sent to locations in South America, the Caribbean and North America.

A similar exhibit is on display this month at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park.


On Sunday, Episcopal churches in metro Atlanta commemorated the August 1619 arrival of those first Africans by tolling church bells in their memory at 3 p.m. The bell ringing is part of a national initiative to get Americans to recognize the historical importance of the arrival of the Africans. It's also to honor the role that they, and those who came after them, played in building the nation.

The National Park Service also encouraged all 419 parks in its system to ring bells for four minutes beginning at 3 p.m. on Sunday. Each minute is meant to represent a century.

“I think it's very significant because we have to understand what our ancestors endured and where we are today. We owe them a debt of gratitude," Dan Moore Sr. said.

While 12 million Africans were brought to the Caribbean and South and Central America, only 389,000 of them were brought to mainland North America. The nation is still wrestling with the impact of slavery's legacy on contemporary U.S. life. The bell ringing is meant to symbolize the beginning of a healing, if not a reckoning.