Hidden History: How Fort Monroe will commemorate arrival of first enslaved Africans

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HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — During the month of February, 10 On Your Side is bringing you untold stories of local African Americans for Black History Month.

We’ve been highlighting the 400th commemoration of the first enslaved Africans brought to these shores. It happened in 1619 at the place where Fort Monroe now stands.

A special ceremony will take place there in August. But throughout the year, the national monument will hold programs and activities geared toward telling the African American story.

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The park hosts about 200,000 visitors a year, but organizers expect more people to come for this occasion.

Aaron Firth, park ranger at Fort Monroe, said, “We do have a big year. And we’re hoping that all Americans and visitors from foreign countries and as many people around the world that are interested in culture and history are going to want told join us for all that we’re intending to do.”

As a part of the commemeration, the Fort Monroe Authority and the National Park Servie is launching the National Center for Freedom.

It will provide programming, enrichment opportunities, and community conversations focused on telling the stores and themes that run through Fort Monroe.

Huntington Ingalls Industries announced that it awarded its first One Community Transformational Grant of $300,000 to the center’s development.

Fort Monroe also is concerned about teaching future generations its stories.

“We’d like to tell them the story of American history and we really believe the African American story is an American history story and probably shouldn’t be regulated to one month out of the year,” said Robin Reed, who is the director of the fort’s Casemate Museum.

Visitors that go to national monument can learn these histories, but Hampton Public School students can too.

Reed says about 1,400 students take a field trip to Fort Monroe each year.

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