This year marks the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Africans in North America.
To mark the occasion, the Mahoning Valley 400 Year Commemoration, a weekend of diverse activities, will take place Friday through next Sunday in downtown Youngstown.
Helen Youngblood, event co-chairwoman, said the event has blossomed into much more than she initially planned. On Aug. 25 1619, about 20 Africans arrived in Point Comfort, today’s Hampton, Va., aboard the White Lion.
The individuals, originally captured by Portuguese enslavers in west central Africa (likely modern-day Angola), were masters of their trades – skilled and knowledgeable farmers, blacksmiths and tradesmen. Their expertise and innovations in food production and crop cultivation were understood to be valuable.
They were forcibly traded to the colonists in exchange for food and supplies. This was the moment when African culture first entered American culture and the beginnings of a powerful influence on the development of the nation.
Telling the story of Mahoning Valley African Americans is a signature part of this commemoration.
Based on nearly a year of research on the part of a subcommittee, a 100-page publication detailing the history and noteworthy contributions of area residents has been created. Pre-sale of the commemoration book will go on sale this month, and the group hopes to distribute the colorfully illustrated product to schools as a teaching tool in the fall.
An example of the interesting facts uncovered by the research was that one of the first free black families to settle in the Mahoning Valley was that of Melinda Knight, a free-born woman, in 1831.
“We want to pass this history on and inspire students to do more by the example of others before them,” Youngblood said
The 400 Years of African-American History Commission was established by Congress in 2018 to inspire, develop and support programs and activities throughout the United States to commemorate the anniversary of slaves’ arrival and highlight years of African-American contributions.
Commemoration events are listed below:
9 a.m. to 3 p.m.: Youngstown Ohio Youth Entrepreneurs Business Fair, 20 Federal Plaza. Financial literacy workshop and competition for children ages 6 -17, $10/student. For information or to participate, call 330-719-0560.
11 a.m. to 11 p.m.: Festival opens, Federal Plaza. A wide variety of vendors and display tents will be on hand.
6 to 11 p.m.: Party on the Plaza featuring DJ Luke Nasty
7 a.m.: African-American Male Wellness Walk Initiative, Covelli Centre. This 5K run and walk is accompanied by a health fair.
12 p.m.: Festival resumes, Federal Plaza East.
1 p.m.: Omega Psi Phi Golf Outing, Mill Creek Golf Course. For information or to participate, call 330-740-7112.
1 p.m.: History of the Dance, Federal Plaza East.
2 p.m.: Taste of Soul Food, Tyler History Center. Call 234-855-4729.
7 p.m.: KGB - Motown, Federal Plaza East
Sunday, Aug. 11
1 to 3 p.m.: Gospel Brunch, Rhine Haus Bier Hall.
2 p.m.: Taste of Soul Food, Tyler History Center. For information or to participate, call 234-855-4729.
4 to 7 p.m.: Jazz in the Park, B&O Station, Mahoning Avenue.
7 to 10 p.m.: Gospel Gala, Federal Plaza East. Performances by Gospel Sensations and Carnell Davis. Advance tickets available at American Family Insurance, 5500 Market St., Boardman, 330-518-1127.