"Struggle is a never ending process. Freedom is never really won, you earn it and win it in every generation."

— Coretta Scott King

Background image: Hundreds of Civil Rights marchers, during the March on Washington, 1963
Image credit:
Hundreds of people during the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963. Photo by Marion S. Trikosko. Library of Congress

In January 2018 a federal law was signed acknowledging the impact of slavery in the US. "The 400 Years of African American History Commission Act" mandated the creation of a national commission to commemorate the anniversary of the forced arrival of enslaved Africans in the English colonies at Point Comfort, Virginia in 1619.

Some of the stated goals of the act are to “plan programs to acknowledge the impact that slavery and laws that enforced racial discrimination had on the United States; encourage civic, patriotic, historical, educational, artistic, religious, and economic organizations to organize and participate in anniversary activities. . . . and coordinate for the public scholarly research on the arrival of Africans in the United States and their contributions to this country.”

In the spirit of this initiative UC Berkeley is organizing a series of events that include speaking engagements, film showings and art performances that honor and celebrate the extraordinary intellectual, social, and cultural contributions of African Americans to our nation; examine the long-lasting impacts of slavery; and explore the roots and consequences of continued discrimination, bias, and inequality in our society.

Over the 2019-2020 academic year, this initiative will feature the followig activities, and more:

1. A major daylong campus wide symposium on August 30, 2019 commemorating the anniversary of the beginning of slavery in what is now the United States which looks at its significance and aftermath featuring faculty from UC Berkeley and other universities.

2. A speaker series organized or co-sponsored by the affiliated faculty of the Othering & Belonging Institute (formerly the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society). The series will gather UC Berkeley and national scholars to present their research and create dialogues on the impact of slavery and resistance efforts in a variety of disciplinary areas. These faculty are drawn from many schools and departments across the campus, including Anthropology, History, Law, Public Health, Sociology, English, Public Policy, Geography and others.

3. Distinguished speakers for the Jefferson and Moses Lectureships sponsored by the Graduate Division.

4. A series of films particularly relevant to the 400th anniversary of slavery that depict the origins of the African American population in America, slavery as an institution, the Civil Rights era and other relevant topics.

5.  A major operetta and associated educational activities sponsored by Cal Performances.

This initiative is being organized by the Othering & Belonging Institute, the African American studies and history departments, the African American Student Development Center, and the Black Staff & Faculty Organization.

For more information on the program visit the Events section of this website.


For all inquiries contact the organizing committee at 400years@berkeley.edu