This article first appeared in the Daytona Beach News-Journal Online, October 21, 2019
A Bethune-Cookman symposium, “Before 1619,” is a look back at 400 years since the arrival of the first African slaves in Virginia, and before, as the first Africans had arrived in Florida as early as 1528.
Estevanico — the first African to explore America — landed in La Florida in 1528.
That’s 91 years BEFORE 1619, the year being commemorated around the nation as the first slaves’ arrival in Virginia. That’s 36 years after Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America and 36 years before the birth of William Shakespeare.
Estevanico, a nickname for Esteban de Dorantes, was a native Moroccan whose adventures took him all the way to the American Southwest and Mexico. He will be just one of the figures discussed at an open symposium at Bethune-Cookman University starting at 1:45 p.m. Thursday.
“The African Presence in America Before 1619: A Symposium for a New Narrative,” will bring together historians to help attendees better understand a more complete picture of African-American history in the United States.
Sheila Flemming-Hunter, a Bethune-Cookman alumna and former faculty member, helped organize the symposium along with former colleague Winifred Johnson, an associate professor of history at B-CU. Flemming-Hunter said former Florida state Sen. Tony Hill, a member of the Florida African American History Task Force, had the vision for the symposium.
Flemming-Hunter is on the board of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the organization that founded Black History Month, and told The News-Journal African-American history does not begin with Jamestown, Virginia.