February 25, 2021

Erin Hillert
Marketing & Communications Manager
James River Association | 608.239.2644

The James River Association Commends UNESCO Designation of First Slave Landing and Most Recent Steps to Address Environmental Racism

James River Association CEO, Bill Street, commends the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Governor Northam, and all who contributed to the designation of Fort Monroe as a Slave Route Site of Memory, and urges further action to address environmental racism and injustice.

“Fort Monroe, historically known as Point Comfort, is located where the James River meets the Chesapeake Bay. It marks where 20 enslaved humans from Africa first landed in Virginia in August of 1619. 

The slave trade was a prominent economic activity along the James River until the abolition of slavery at the end of the American Civil War. Richmond was among the largest slave trade markets in the United States, second only to New Orleans, with many enslaved Africans traded in the eight-block neighborhood of Shockoe Bottom.

This important global designation is appropriate given the significance and lasting impact that slavery has had on our nation. The UNESCO recognition will help to ensure that the story of slavery and oppression of African Americans in the United States continues to be told today and into the future.

Our hope is that sites like these will increase awareness of the root causes of environmental racism and injustice to help create a more just future, in which access to clean water is universal, especially in communities disproportionately impacted by discrimination, pollution and climate change. 

To that end, we urge Virginia’s General Assembly to advance bills that seek to end environmental racism and promote environmental justice, including SB1318 and HB2074 patroned by Senator Hashmi and Delegate Simonds, which would establish an interagency working group to further environmental justice in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

History has the power to inform our present and future decision-making towards racial equity and environmental justice in our communities and our waterways. Let’s use this new UNESCO designation to take another meaningful step forward.”