About

Remembering 1619

“We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock. Plymouth Rock landed on us.” ~ Malcolm X.

The Equal Justice Society will host a series of events and activities throughout 2019 to observe the 400th anniversary of slavery in the United States. 1619 was the beginning of much misery, degradation, evil, and pain in our country. We have fought mightily to undo the damage.  EJS hopes that we can shine a light on our history while invoking the “better angels of our nature.”

We invite organizations, law firms, companies, and individuals to support our year-long observance. Register here to receive more information.

~ Eva Paterson, President, Equal Justice Society

Background

On August 19 or 20, 1619, twenty Africans stepped ashore at Jamestown, Virginia, thus starting the monstrous American system of slavery. Antony, Isabella, Pedro and 17 other Africans were on a Dutch ship captained by a man named Jope whose pilot was an Englishman named Marmaduke.

Jope and his compatriots who were pirates and thieves had robbed a Spanish ship of a “cargo” of Africans bound for the West Indies. This brought the European slave trade which began in 1444 and continued for more than four hundred years to the English colonies.

Africa lost an estimated 40 million people.  Lerone Bennett wrote of this painful history in his trail blazing book, Before the Mayflower.

The Equal Justice Society will be commemorating this anniversary with a number of activities for the following reasons:

  1. The United States is an ahistorical nation. We want to remind people of our history and to acquaint people with the facts, reality, and feel of slavery.
  2. The enslavement of Africans has affected every part of our nation. We will connect the dots between 1619 and the present political, economic, and cultural moment.
  3. From the moment Black folks arrived on these shores, we participated in rebellion and resistance-from enslaved people suing those who held us captive to rebellions by enslaved people to non-violent protest, marches, and boycotts.
  4. Despite attempts to crush our souls, our spirits, and our bodies, African-Americans have had many triumphs and have consistently shown excellence in the face of the most monstrous evil.

Goals of the Year-long Observance

  1. Information: Many people are unaware of the fact that slavery in this country started in 1619. In addition to letting people know about this, we will inform people about the nature of the international slave trade.
  2. Connecting the dots between slavery and current manifestations of racism and white supremacy.
  3. America has always been one of the wealthiest countries on the planet. Much of that wealth was generated on the backs of enslaved people who were unpaid.
  4. Dehumanizing Africans and white supremacy were key components of the slave trade. One could only enslave fellow humans if one did not feel they were truly human. This view of Black people continues to the present day.
  5. Our political system was profoundly affected and warped by slavery. The Electoral College as well as the U.S. Senate where a senator from the tiny state of Maine has the same power as a senator from California were shaped by the needs of the slave states. There are present day ramifications.
  6. The oppression and mistreatment of Africans has morphed into structural and institutional racism evidenced in Jim Crow laws, a biased criminal justice system, shooting of unarmed Black men and women, educational inequality, voter disenfranchisement, and segregated housing to name a few.
  7. Resistance, Rebellion and Triumphs: The subject of slavery is very depressing. The Board and staff of the Equal Justice Society want to make sure that people are made aware of the rebellion and resistance that Africans have engaged in from the first moments we arrived.  Leon Higginbotham’s book In the Matter of Color chronicles enslaved people suing their “masters.”  The movie Amistad illustrates a successful use of the law to gain our freedom. There were slave revolts on plantations.  The civil rights movement used non-violent protest to win equality and fairness. Boycotts have been used to great effect.  We have used art and our faith to keep us strong and resilient.  Black Lives Matter is a current manifestation of resistance as are the large numbers of Black people successfully running for office.

Activities

  • Panel: The Impact of American Slavery on American Jurisprudence on Activism. On February 21, 2019, a panel composed of Lisa Holder, Interim Legal Director, Equal Justice Society; Shauna Marshall, The Honorable Raymond L. Sullivan Professor of Law UC Hastings College of the Law; Dale Minami, Partner, Minami Tamaki LLP; Megan Ming Francis, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Washington;  Nusrat Jahan Choudhury, National ACLU; and Eva Paterson, President & Co-founder, Equal Justice Society  will be held in the Ceremonial Courtroom of the Federal Courthouse in San Francisco (that is if the government is open by then).
  • Juneteenth Celebration in Los Angeles: June 19, 1865 was the day that news of the end of slavery reached the kidnapped Africans and their descendants in Texas. Black folks celebrate this wonderful day.  We will be gathering in Los Angeles and will be honored with Faye Carol singing Maya Angelou’s poem “And Still I Rise.”
  • The annual EJS conference on Race will focus on the reality of slavery, its connection to present day bias and politics as well as its effect on the psyches of all Americans. We are reaching out to our friends from the academy from all around the country. We hope to have to conference in the summer.
  • Aug. 20, 2019 at SFJAZZ – Artistic presentation by musicians, actors and dancers from the acclaimed Marcus Shelby Orchestra; Zaccho Dance Theatre; actor, Steven Anthony Jones; filmmaker Cheo Tyehimba Taylor; and vocalist Faye Carol. http://1619event.eventbrite.com. We will put out a call to visual artists to create works of art dealing with various aspects of the experience of slavery and beyond.
  • Ongoing – EJS is part of a national coalition aimed at developing a progressive pipeline from the law schools to the federal bench.
  • We hope to join the national fight against voter suppression-a double edge sword that is both is a product of white supremacy as well as a tool for diluting the political power of Black people.

We invite organizations, law firms, companies, and individuals to support our year-long observance. Register here to receive more information.