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Call for Reconciliation Comes With 400th Anniversary of Slavery in Virginia

Michael Pope

Virginia has a very long history, a history that has several dark chapters. Now, a group of prominent state leaders are hoping for reconciliation.

2019 is the 400th anniversary of the first time the House of Burgesses met. That’s something that many lawmakers here at the Capitol are celebrating this year.

But it’s also the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first slaves. A moment Richmond pastor Ben Campbell says should be a time for reconciliation. “Over four centuries, our ancestors built a deliberate system of inequality, which we must now dismantle,” Campbell told a news conference Wednesday.

Virginians for Reconciliation is a group of leaders from politics, religion and the arts — a group founded by former Governor Bob McDonnell.

“The time is now in our increasingly diverse but also unfortunately increasingly divided United States, to try to resurrect and promote with new vigor our time-honored values of kindness and understanding and respect and reconciliation,” McDonnell said Wednesday.

The group has a number of actives planned for the coming year, like having lawmakers walk the slave trail in Richmond and holding book clubs in churches and speeches on college campuses.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.