Accompanied by his wife Ana Dias Lourenço, Angola’s President João Lourenço toured the Smithsonian African American History Museum on Monday in Washington, D.C. to experience the slavery and middle passage exhibits.
It was President Lourenço’s first time at the Blacksonian, which he marked as a “profoundly emotional” moment in his life.
“The suffering that our brothers went through in the time of slavery touches us deeply,” he said through an interpreter after a private tour. “For this reason, we have to establish a closer relationship between our African countries and our diaspora, part of which is here in the United States of America.”
President Lourenço met with Vincent A. Tucker, the president of the William Tucker 1624 Society, and other members of the Tucker family, who are believed to be descendants of the first Africans to arrive in the Virginia colonies in 1619 on a ship that left from Angola.
“This is history that is part of our common history,” he said. “As Africans and Africans in the diaspora, we’ve seen the whole suffering that our ancestors went through in the time of slavery and that was very touching and profoundly emotional.”
President Lourenço invited the Tucker family to visit Angola to share their experience and family history with the country’s National Archive, universities, and Angolan communities.
“The idea is really to keep the connection on both sides,” Lourenço said.
Mary Elliot, the curator of the museum’s Slavery and Freedom exhibit, showed the couple the image of Queen Njinga Mbandi, depicted by French illustrator Achille Deveri, and served as a representation of how free Angolans fought against slavery during her mid-1600s reign.
It is the first image visitors see at the start of the museum’s slavery exhibits, centering Angola’s position at the beginning of that part of the American story.