In 1767, Kunta Kinte arrived on Annapolis' City Dock, a captured Gambian brought to America to be sold into a life of slavery.
Yesterday, on that same dock, Kinte and the late Alex Haley, the descendant who made Kinte famous with his Pulitzer Prize-winning family history Roots, were honored in a jubilant unveiling of the final phase of a $750,000 memorial in their names.
The governor, local officials, Haley family members and several hundred observers braved blazing sunshine to attend the celebration, the culmination of a 10-year effort to establish the memorial in the state capital. It is the only memorial in the country dedicated to a named African slave.
"We commemorate here the arrival of Kunta Kinte in America and, symbolically, every African-American family's start in America," said Leonard A. Blackshear of Annapolis, president of the nonprofit Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation. He called the city a "symbolic Ellis Island" for blacks.
But while the stories of the individual men honored in the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley memorial are important, "the story is more about the dash between the names," Blackshear told the crowd.
"That dash tells how people in America can arrive in chains and rise to international fame."
At the ceremony, the foundation dedicated yesterday the last two pieces of the memorial that it turned over to the city. Next to Market House, a 14-foot-wide granite "compass rose" with a bronze globe centered on Annapolis enables visitors to face the country of their family's origin. At the water's edge, a 10-plaque story wall lists "values" such as family, love and faith with accompanying quotes from Roots. Bronze statues of Haley reading to three children of different ethnic backgrounds were installed on City Dock in 1999.
"This memorial has significance for each and every Marylander and American," Gov. Parris N. Glendening said. "It symbolizes the place of beginning for African-Americans and, most importantly, it symbolizes the perseverance and faith of a people."
Quoting Haley, Glendening said: "We remember `Find the good and praise it.'"
Haley's son, Annapolis resident William Haley, used the occasion to announce the formation of an Alex Haley museum on Francis Street. It will officially open next month.
Those who attended the ceremony spoke of the inspiration that they drew from Haley's work and the memorial.
John Amos, the actor who portrayed the adult Kinte in the Roots miniseries, recalled being one of four black children to integrate an all-white school in New Jersey and how he felt "vindicated" through his role in Roots.
Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer, who proclaimed yesterday Kunta Kinte Day in the city, called the memorial "a moral compass for generations yet unborn."
And community leader Carl O. Snowden, who helped launch the original effort to commemorate Kinte here almost a quarter-century ago, said yesterday's ceremony was a testament to "how far we have come."
The effort to honor Kinte on the dock where he arrived with the 97 other slaves who survived the Middle Passage on the crowded slave ship, the Lord Ligonier, began just after the miniseries based on Haley's book aired, as African-Americans and others were inspired by Roots to trace their lineage.
But not everyone applauded the idea of a memorial initially. Then-Mayor John C. Apostol rejected the notion of honoring Kinte with a plaque, noting that the African was sold to a Virginia family and thus was neither an Annapolitan nor a Marylander.
The plaque became an issue in the next city election, and Republican Richard L. Hillman, who publicly supported the plaque, was elected mayor. In September 1981, a plaque was dedicated at a ceremony at which Haley was present.
Then, less than two days later, the memorial disappeared. In its place was a card that read "You have been patronized by the KKK." Neither the plaque nor the people who stole it were found. (Blackshear notes that a camera that will feed images of the memorial to the Internet should help protect it from vandals.)
Another plaque was installed in the ground, but as it became damaged by foot traffic on the dock, community leaders decided to construct a larger memorial to replace the plaque.
Blackshear, who was chairman of the group that organizes the annual Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival here, founded the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation in 1992 and began soliciting private and governmental funds for the memorial.
At first, the organization struggled with how to portray Kinte. One idea was to show him in chains, but some thought that would be "too much of a downer," Blackshear said. Another proposal -- to portray him as a "heroic figure" -- was seen by some as a "whitewash of history," he said.
When Alex Haley died that same year, Blackshear said the foundation decided to honor Haley by showing him sharing his story with children.
Now, Blackshear said he envisions the memorial as a place for healing and reconciliation.
"All Americans need a place to go for closure on the issues of slavery and ethnic division," Blackshear said. "It is not about being subjugated. It is about a people who survived slavery."