The Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, based at Buckhead’s Cathedral of St. Philip, is calling on its churches and schools to toll bells on Aug. 25 in remembrance of the first enslaved African people forced to come to English North America 400 years ago this month.
That 1619 event in what was then the Colony of Virginia was recently highlighted by the New York Times Magazine in “The 1619 Project,” a package of stories about the legacy of slavery in American history.
Rev. Robert C. Wright, the bishop of the diocese, said in a press release that the bell-tolling, scheduled for 3 p.m., is intended to be part of a national commemoration involving other Christian denominations and other religions.
“At 3 p.m., we can join with people of all faiths to remember those who came enslaved, those who came to a country that one day would proclaim liberty,” Wright said in the press release.
The 1619 incident began with a raid by English privateers – state-sanctioned pirates – on a Portuguese ship carrying people kidnapped from Africa, probably in today’s Angola, who were forced into slavery. The English privateers seized the enslaved people, took them to Virginia, and traded them for food.
The bell-tolling event is “one of many ways the Diocese is seeking to break the grip of racism,” according to the press release. Since 2016, the diocese has worked with the Anglican Church in the African nation of Ghana on a program addressing the legacy of the slave trade, and in 2017 the diocese opened its Absalom Jones Episcopal Center for Racial Healing.
The Diocese of Atlanta covers middle and north Georgia.