President Obama Designates Fort Monroe National Monument

Fortress Monroe, circa 1861

On November 1, 2011, President Barack Obama signed a proclamation establishing Fort Monroe as our nation’s newest national monument. The site, which is considered to be the beginning point for slavery in what would become the United States, was also one place where the demise of slavery began. Dutch traders landed there in 1619, bringing with them the first enslaved Africans. Later, in the early days of the Civil War, three escaped slaves made their way to the fort, where they were granted refuge. The fort remained a Union stronghold despite its location within Confederate territory. Over time, about 10,000 escaped slaves made the dangerous journey to Fort Monroe seeking asylum. Some historians believe it was this exodus that inspired President Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, which officially freed all slaves in territories that were in rebellion against the Union.

Fort Monroe is located on a small peninsula in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, near where Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. Because the British had sailed freely into Chesapeake Bay during the War of 1812 on their way to ransack Washington, DC, the federal government decided to fortify the peninsula. Construction of the fort and its surrounding moat was completed in 1834, built in part by enslaved laborers. After the Civil War, Fort Monroe served as the place of imprisonment for Jefferson Davis, the deposed president of the Confederacy. It remained an active military base until 2005.

In establishing the Fort Monroe National Monument, President Obama used his power under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to preserve significant natural or historic landmarks on federal lands. The presidential proclamation capped a lobbying effort by descendants of the slaves freed at Fort Monroe and others to have the site turned into a national park.

Image credit: Courtesy of the National Park Service

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  1. Alex B. says:

    so dumn


    Wowwwwwww!!!! This is just not right! I mean forealllll!!!!!!!!!! What in the world happend to the whole thing he said while he was trying to be president huh? Well if he dont do what he said he was going to do then why is he here! Sorry but I just had to put this on here!

    • Elle says:

      Please refresh my memory on what the President said, ” while he was trying to be president” regarding the Antiquities Act of 1906 and Fort Monroe.

  3. Person says:

    What’s not right about it?