About 30 people commemorated the 187th anniversary of when 78 enslaved Black Americans were given a chance of a new life in Bermuda.
Politicians and entertainers gathered in Barr’s Bay Park in Hamilton in memory of those on board the Enterprise, a US cargo ship that was forced to stop in Hamilton Harbour in 1835.
Ernest Peets, the Minister of Youth, Culture and Sport, said: “While we gather today to mark the arrival and the history of the Enterprise, let us all pause to celebrate the bravery and the courageous acts of those people who fought for the liberation and the freedom of their fellow men and fellow women.”
He added: “The story and the history of the Enterprise is one that we must never forget – it is a story that we must, and should, teach our children.
“While we commemorate, let us also reflect on the indomitable human spirit to prevail and to conquer in the worst of times.”
The event, on Friday, was a part of the Bermuda Heartbeats series, which highlights moments of cultural and historical significance around the island.
It featured musical performances from Joy T Barnum and Rajai Denbrooke, as well as poetry readings from several writers.
Dr Peets said that, while the Government’s actions caused an international incident, it was important to remember “their commitment to make certain that freedom was not to be denied”.
He added: “May all of us continue to have the courage to act with our moral fortitude, respecting the beautiful diversity, the indelible dignity of all humans and the great tapestry that binds us all together.”
Charles Gosling, the Mayor of Hamilton, said that many of the descendants of the freed men and women lived on the island today and stressed that the history of US slavery was tied to Bermuda.
He added: “Their history is our history.”
Mr Gosling said: “I am proud to be a part of this occasion today.
“This exemplifies what we should try to do and there is still so much that has to be done.”
The Enterprise, a US ship set for Charleston, South Carolina, landed in Bermuda on February 11, 1835 after bad weather set it off course.
Customs officers discovered 87 enslaved Black men, women and children – the youngest being a five month-old girl – in the ship’s decks who had not been listed on the ship’s manifest for cargo.
Most of the men and women had been freed but were kidnapped and resold into slavery.
The Bermuda Supreme Court ruled that, because the British Empire had abolished slavery only six months earlier, the enslaved people must be released and given the option to start a new life of freedom on the island.
Matilda Ridgley, who had children still enslaved in the US, as well as five children aboard the Enterprise, was the only one to decline the chance of a new life.