A Luta Continua!
“A Luta Continua” is a Portuguese slogan that literally means “the struggle continues.” It was indeed a struggle to erect the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Memorial. A struggle that took over twenty years!
When Alex Haley’s best selling story Roots won national acclaim, a group of Annapolis, Maryland citizens recognized the significant role of Annapolis in the story. Led by Carl O. Snowden, the group approached the Annapolis City Council in 1979 to discuss placing a memorial in honor of Kunta Kinte at the Annapolis City Dock. The Mayor at the time was quoted in the Washington Post opposing the idea, indicating that Kunta Kinte was not an Annapolitan.
Within two years a new Mayor was elected who ran on a platform that included supporting a plaque at the City Dock commemorating Kunta Kinte’s arrival in 1767. It was 1981 and the new Mayor was Richard Hillman. Before the year was out, thousands of people observed the dedication of the plaque. In attendance was Alex Haley himself, along with then-Governor Harry Hughes, County Executive Robert A. Pascal, and Mayor Richard Hillman.
But that was not the end of the story. Within 48 hours of the plaque’s dedication, it was stolen, allegedly, by the Ku Klux Klan. The news of the theft made international headlines. The plaque was never recovered. Alex Haley was quoted in the Capital saying, “The theft of the plaque spoke volumes about the people who stole it.” Within two months local citizens had raised enough funds to replace the stolen plaque.
In 1992, the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation, under the leadership of President and Founder, Leonard A. Blackshear, started the process of building the now completed Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Memorial, which includes the restored 1981 replacement plaque commemorating Kinte’s arrival.
That process was finally completed after over 23 years of challenges and struggle. On June 12, 2002, the final phase of the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Memorial was dedicated. The Baltimore Sun wrote, “At last, Annapolis will honor one of its most famous sons in proper fashion. After years of plodding debate over whether to erect a statue at the point where Alex Haley’s ancestor landed in chains at Annapolis, officials have finally agreed on a fitting memorial.”
A final component of the Memorial was added in 2006. This addition installed a plaque naming the Leonard A. Blackshear Walkway. After an Annapolis City Council Resolution designated the walkway naming, a dedication ceremony was held in September 2006. The Resolution named the Memorial Story Wall the Leonard A. Blackshear Walkway in memory of Leonard A. Blackshear, the founder of the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation and Kunta Kinte Celebrations, who passed away in March of 2006.
Today the Memorial is seen by some 1,000,000 visitors a year. Although Alex Haley did not live long enough to see this Memorial completed, if he were here today, we are sure that he would say that it “speaks volumes about the many people and organizations from around the world who helped build it!”