Skip to main content

Press Releases - County Council

Councilmember Will Jawando presents proclamation marking 400 years since first enslaved Africans arrived in U.S.

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, September 11, 2019

From the Office of Councilmember Will Jawando

ROCKVILLE, Md., Sept. 10, 2019—This morning Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando presented a proclamation recognizing the passing of 400 years since the first documented ship containing enslaved Africans arrived in the U.S. The arrival of 20 slaves at the harbor of present-day Hampton, Virginia, marked the beginning of more than three centuries of violent and dehumanizing chattel slavery. During that time more than 12.5 million Africans were captured, sold and transported to the U.S. and other parts of the Americas.

“It is important to sit with the pain and the anguish of what we are commemorating today,” said Councilmember Jawando. “A commemoration is not a celebration. We need to remember not only the perseverance of those enslaved people, but also the brutal systems that made that perseverance necessary.”

Councilmember Jawando noted that as late as the pre-Civil War years there were 760 families in Montgomery County who owned slaves; that at least two of three known individuals lynched in Montgomery County were dragged from what is now the Council Office Building (then a courthouse); and that the County desegregated its schools in 1956.

Councilmember Jawando was joined by James Stowe, director of the Montgomery County Office of Human Rights, and a broad range of leaders of the County’s African American and African diaspora communities.

“We are still fighting for the same things,” said Stowe, who also discussed the Remembrance and Reconciliation Commission. This commission, established by a Council resolution of which Councilmember Jawando was one of the lead sponsors, will support community efforts to work with the Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) to recognize the victims of lynchings in Montgomery County and help the County understand and take steps to address its own history of racial injustice. “We are not asking for guilt,” said Stowe. “We are asking to find a way forward together.”

Councilmember Jawando has made addressing disparities in outcomes for African Americans and other communities of color in Montgomery County a major focus of his first year at the Council. His LETT Act, which aims to ensure that when a police officer is involved in the death of an individual, investigations into that officer’s conduct are independent, impartial and transparent, was signed into law in May. He is also a cosponsor of a bill introduced by Councilmember Hans Riemer to establish a policing advisory commission to enhance trust and transparency between the police department and community members. He is working with Council President Nancy Navarro and the full Council to develop an official racial equity and social justice policy for the County.

Video of today’s proclamation can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/dCGcUTAFRQE.

# # # Release ID: 19-289
Media Contact: Cecily Thorne 240-777-7972 , Pamela Luckett 240-777-7971