Annapolis waives fees for slavery presentation

British organization to kick off 1st U.S. tour in Maryland's capital

July 27, 2004|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

A British organization's planned march through Annapolis - described as an apology across generations for the trans-Atlantic slave trade - was granted a waiver from municipal fees by the Annapolis city council yesterday.

The London-based Lifeline Expedition is working with the local Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation Inc. in planning the Annapolis event as the kickoff for its first U.S. tour.

As part of its quest to heal scars left by slavery, the group has scheduled the stop in Annapolis for Sept. 29 - the anniversary of the date in 1767 when Kunta Kinte, the African ancestor whose story is celebrated in Haley's historical novel Roots, disembarked from a slave ship in Annapolis.

Leonard A. Blackshear, president of the Annapolis-based foundation, had applied for the city to waive parking, police and street-closing fees for the day.

Blackshear told the council the planned walk will represent reconciliation, penitence and forgiveness between the races over slavery.

White European marchers will be wearing the shackles and yokes symbolic of enslavement, which Blackshear said will be meant to express sorrow and penitence. African participants, he said, will be demonstrating forgiveness.

"We'll bring people together from Europe, Africa and America and begin a new healing process," Blackshear said. "Annapolis will be known as the first city of healing. Not Boston, not Washington, not Philadelphia. Little old Annapolis."

Officials estimated the cost to the city would be at least $2,000.

A few Annapolis residents attended the council meeting to express opposition to the event.

One of them, Glenn F. Sappington, said he thought walkers clad in chains and bonds would be a spectacle on the city's busy sidewalks. "Annapolis will be embarrassed," he said.

Other American cities on the Lifeline tour this fall include Boston, Richmond, Va., and Charleston, S.C.

The Annapolis procession would start at City Dock, pass the statue of Roger B. Taney - the Supreme Court chief justice who presided over the infamous Dred Scott decision buttressing slavery - and end at the Lawyers Mall statue of Thurgood Marshall, the late civil rights lawyer and first black Supreme Court justice.

Blackshear said the route encapsulates the progress African-Americans have made over the centuries. "It will be a walk from slavery to freedom that says something about this city," he said.

The Lifeline organization was established in 2000 by British couple David and Pam Pott. The group's Web site,, lists its planned trips over the next few years.

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