- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 11, 2002

ANNAPOLIS A 10-year-old dream to build a symbolic Ellis Island for black Americans will become a reality tomorrow with the dedication of the final phase of the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Memorial at the Annapolis City Dock.
The memorial marks where Kunta Kinte arrived on a slave ship, the Lord Legionier, in 1767.
Mr. Haley's discovery of a newspaper article about the slave ship provided inspiration for his 1976 book, "Roots," a story of his ancestors that won the Pulitzer Prize and was turned into an acclaimed television miniseries. Mr. Haley died in 1992.
"The memorial symbolizes the place of beginning for all African Americans, the beginning of their story in America," said Leonard Blackshear, president of the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation.
"It is a kind of symbolic Ellis Island for African Americans. That's very important because African Americans do not have a place of beginning in America like European Americans look to Ellis Island," he said.
Mr. Haley was doing research about his ancestors when he came across a newspaper clipping that said the slave ship, Lord Legionier, had arrived in Annapolis with 98 Gambians. Among them, according to Mr. Haley, was one of his ancestors, Kunta Kinte.
A plaque marking Kunta Kinte's arrival was placed at the dock in 1981. In 1992, the campaign was begun for a full-fledged memorial.
The first phase was completed in 1997, when the plaque was moved to a granite pedestal and a ramp for the handicapped was opened. The second phase, a bronze sculpture group of Haley reading to three children, was dedicated in 1999.
The third and final phase, which will be dedicated tomorrow, consists of two parts.
Ten bronze plaques with excerpts from "Roots" and commentary on those excerpts have been installed along the sea wall near the statue.
"They all speak to the message that we thought Alex Haley wanted to convey, which certainly address the horrors of slavery and the middle passage, but also address his sense of the importance of family heritage, perseverance, faith, forgiveness and hope," said Deborah Green, spokeswoman for the foundation.
Across the street from the statue, a compass rose of multicolor granite, 14 feet in diameter, has been set into the bricks of a small plaza shaded by trees. The compass rose, with a bronze globe in the middle, is surrounded by curved metal benches and an information kiosk that will acquaint visitors with the three parts of the memorial.
Mr. Blackshear hopes that the memorial will be a place where the almost a million visitors who throng downtown Annapolis each year can "find a path to reconciliation and healing on the issues of slavery, racial hatred, ethnic hatred."
"There is a lot of anger in the African-American community and a lot of guilt in the European community about slavery," Mr. Blackshear said. "This is not the end of the story. This is the beginning of the story."


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