On Sunday, August 23, 2015, an entire day was devoted to honoring the memory of Africans who experienced the Middle Passage and their descendants. Beginning with a morning meeting and service at Old South Church (1669) and culminating with an afternoon remembrance ceremony at Faneuil Hall (1742), Boston’s African Americans were honored through prayer, music, and historical statements. Particular emphasis was placed on stating the names of individual enslaved Africans of Old South Church during the 17th and 18th centuries and telling the story of Africans and their descendants in Boston’s early history, which for so long has been exclusively associated with people of European descent. More than 800 people, both residents and visitors, attended the day’s activities, representing diverse faith groups, nationalities, and ethnicities. Native Americans, as the first people of the land, formally granted permission for the ceremony at Faneuil Hall. State Representative Byron Rushing read the resolution of the Massachusetts General Court that joins the state with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in designating August 23rd as the annual International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition and delivered an address that reflected the experience of Africans in the Bay Colony, the city of Boston, and the nation. Also participating were representatives from the Massachusett Tribe, the National Park Service, the Museum of African American History, diverse religious groups, and young people from OrigiNation Cultural Arts Center. In the African tradition, drummers began and ended the ceremony, and a libation was poured in honor of African ancestors. The anticipated next step in commemorating enslaved Africans and their descendants is the installation of a historic marker in Boston within the next two years that identifies the city as a Middle Passage arrival port.
Video of the event is now available, both the full ceremony and highlights:
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- Boston, MA – “Black Enslavement and Emancipation – How Long” 8/31/15