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Maryland national parks plan commemoration four centuries after first enslaved Africans arrived in Virginia

Maryland’s national historic sites are planning a commemorative “Day of Healing” Sunday to mark the 400th anniversary of the arrival of enslaved Africans in colonial America.

Parks including Fort McHenry in Baltimore, the Hampton National Historic Site in Towson and the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historic Site in Church Creek will mark the anniversary at 3 p.m. In Church Creek, officials will ring a bell. At Fort McHenry, officials have planned to fire a four-volley musket salute to mark each of the past four centuries.

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The commemorations coincide with the National Park Service’s “Day of Healing," which marks 1619 as the beginning of one of the darkest chapters in U.S. history. In Maryland, the first cargo ship carrying 13 enslaved Africans arrived several decades later in St. Mary’s City in 1642.

Deanna Mitchell believes part of her job as superintendent of the Tubman historic site is to preserve both its natural and cultural resources.

“It’s important for us all, not just African Americans, to reflect ... and to see what we can do to not forget about the contributions those individuals made and that their descendants are making today,” she said. “We need to be cognizant of remembering and never forgetting those Africans who were free people in their country but brought here as enslaved Africans.”

The Tubman historic site’s ceremony will be preceded by a presentation on the 1619 anniversary at 2:30 p.m. Visitors will be able to ask questions after the bell ringing.

The Fort McHenry commemoration will be preceded by a ranger presentation at 2:45 p.m. on the meaning of the “Day of Healing” and the role of African Americans during the War of 1812, according to Abbi Wicklein-Bayne, the park service’s chief of interpretation and education in the Chesapeake Bay region.

The Hampton National Historic Site, a 1790 estate where enslaved people were once forced to work, will offer a ranger-guided tour at 2:30 p.m. on the farm side of the park. The tour will arrive at the intact slave quarters of the plantation at 3 p.m. for a time of remembrance, Wicklein-Bayne said.

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