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Congressional Black Caucus marks 400th anniversary of slaves’ arrival in US

Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-Conn., center, applauds as she sits alongside members of the Congressional Black Caucus during a ceremony to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first recorded arrival of enslaved African people in America, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — From the voices of Howard University’s choir to the resonating sound of drums, African culture encompassed the Capitol on Tuesday as the Congressional Black Caucus commemorated the 400th anniversary of the first recorded forced arrival of enslaved African people in the United States.

“We celebrate certain parts of our history and the ideals that are the foundation of our country but we have been reluctant to examine and embrace all of our history,” California Congresswoman Karen Bass said.

Bass, the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, said learning and understanding the past are the first steps toward healing.

“The truth of the past lingers below the surface,” she added.

Lawmakers stressed the need to not separate the story of slavery from the history of America.

“The terrible legacy affects us still in real powerful, discernable ways,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said.

Congressional leaders say while the country has made strides to improve, much more needs to be done including restoring protections against voter suppression.

“I know one thing that we could do—and I know Mr. Hoyer is prepared to put it on the floor when it is ready—is to pass the Voting Rights Act as soon as he can,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said.

In a break from the typical partisan bickering, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy joined the call for greater unity.

“With humility about our history, faith in our principles, and hope in our future, let us continue to deepen our common bonds and never fail to pursue our nation’s highest goal,” McCarthy said.

Tuesday’s ceremony was part of a series of events being held by the Congressional Black Caucus to mark “The Year of Return.”