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In August of 1619, the first 20 or so Africans arrived on the shores of Virginia marking the beginning of the transatlantic slave trade in America. This week makes 400 years, and Roland Martin says there are a number of events going on this week to commemorate the day.

He talks to Gloria Brown Marshall of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), who says this week we celebrate “400 years of perseverance.”

According to Marshall, the arrival of Africans in 1619 was “not the arrival of slavery;” she says, “they arrived there as people who had been kidnapped from the motherland.” These people were forced to create new lives in this foreign land, and by the mid 1600s some had servants of their own and land. But the English then decided to begin slavery to increase their profits.

Our ancestors had a “fierce spirit to survive,” she says; and for that we should be grateful. “We gave so much to this country, without us this country wouldn’t exist,” so, this Friday at the Hampton University Chapel ASALH will host a panel of experts who will discuss the 400 year journey of African Americans.

Roland Martin: Talking About The 400 Years  was originally published on