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Remember the Pearl at Program and Procession

In 1848, 77 enslaved men, women and children boarded the three-masted Pearl schooner at the waterfront in Southwest Washington to sail to freedom.

It was the single largest organized attempt in the United States for enslaved people to escape from slavery to freedom.

The escape was unsuccessful. Many of those striving for freedom paid instead a terrible price.

But historians say the attempted escape led to the end of the slave trade in the District.

On Sunday, April 14th, at 2 p.m., at Westminster Church (Fourth and I Streets SW), you can be part of  a commemorative program to Remember the Pearl.

History will come alive during the program with a virtual tour of sites in and around Washington, DC related to the Pearl escape and slavery. In addition, guests will view a filmed re-enactment of the escape and be challenged to see the themes in it that have shaped American consciousness and reverberate in contemporary American life.

Descendants of the escapees will be present at the program and the following reception.

On Monday, April 15th, at 6:00 p.m., a celebratory procession to the Southwest DC waterfront with music, drumming, and dance will take place to memorialize the experience of the escapees.

Starting at the corner of 4th and I Streets, Southwest, the walk will end at the Recreation Pier at Seventh Street SW, where the names of the Pearl passengers will be read, libations poured, and flowers tossed into the river in their honor.

Both events are free and open to all.

“So few people know about this important part of DC’s history,” said Westminster Rev. Ruth Hamilton, the first convener of The Pearl Initiative composed of Southwest residents. On this 176th anniversary of the event, the fourth annual remembrance, members of The Pearl Initiative hope this commemoration will stimulate or renew interest in the story of the Pearl.

Members also honor the long-standing work of The Pearl Coalition founded by the late Lloyd D. Smith and carried on by his grandson, David Smith.

For more information about the Remember the Pearl commemoration and The Pearl Initiative, visit https://www.rememberthepearl.com.

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