1619 commemoration: Officials hope event sticks with visitors

Hampton

HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — After a huge weekend at Fort Monroe, officials hope the message of the commemoration will stick with visitors.

This weekend’s events honored the 400th commemoration of the first African landing at Point Comfort, which is where the fort was built over.

“We made a statement about history that’s never been told before in our country,” said Fort Monroe Authority executive director Glenn Oder.

Oder says he wasn’t taught about 1619 in school, so this weekend served as a way to tell others about the historic, yet painful event.

“I wish history was simple. I wish it was a Disney film with a few characters and you could figure the plot out and have a few characters, but it’s not. It’s complicated and it’s not easy to talk about,” he said.

Officials say around 5,000 turned out for the events this past weekend, which included a day of healing for many of the attendees of African descent.

“Healing is the process of becoming sound and healthy again. It’s a slow process depending on the person,” said park superintendent Terry Brown.

Brown and Oder say the healing was just the start of what they hope can continue to be a lesson for country about what occurred at Fort Monroe in regards to slavery and the making of America.

The two say they’ll continue to tell the “true” story by finishing the fort’s visitors center, working on an African American memorial art project, and joint programs by the fort authority and National Park Service.

Both hope they’ll continue to bring to life the history that happened at the fort and think the commemoration will make people return.

“I’m a firm believer that people go to places where they see themselves. Now, they’re going to come back because they feel welcome. That was a success,” Brown said. 

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