Last Friday, UC Berkeley initiated a year-long initiative commemorating the 400th anniversary of the forced arrival of enslaved Africans in the English colonies with a day-long symposium. It drew hundreds of attendees who heard from more than a dozen historians and social scientists about the impact and legacy of slavery in society today.
Opening the symposium, Denise Herd, lead organizer of the “400 Years of Resistance to Slavery and Oppression” initiative, explained why it is crucial for Berkeley to acknowledge this sordid anniversary, invoking a famous quote by William Faulkner, who wrote that, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
“A major theme threaded through the symposium today is that the legacies of slavery and the post-Reconstruction period are very much alive and continue to influence today’s social, political and economic outlook on race and need to be confronted,” Herd told the audience, which was packed inside the International House auditorium.
Herd, who also is the associate director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society and a professor of public health, later added, “We are taking one of the first steps on the longer journey to support efforts for justice, belonging and human rights.”
Friday’s speakers included scholars from Berkeley and other institutions across the United States and Canada who gave presentations during a series of panel discussions that examined slavery, memory, afterlife and resistance.