Fort Monroe prepares for 400th Commemoration event

Hampton

HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) – Fort Monroe is just days away from a milestone commemoration, and staff are busy preparing for the event.

Earlier this year, 10 On Your Side reported on the 400th commemoration of the first enslaved Africans brought to English North America at the location where the fort now stands.

Historians there say around “20 and odd” Africans were taken from Angola and brought to the location, Old Point Comfort, and sold to colonists there.

Throughout the year, the fort has held a number of events in honor of the milestone.

Officials are expecting a thousand guests over the weekend to attend a number of events, including a commemoration ceremony, a free concert put on by Common and the Sounds of Blackness, and a day of healing.

Fort Monroe Authority Executive Director Glenn Oder says all eyes will be on the fort this weekend and they welcome anyone to attend.

“Everybody should come. Every single person should come. This is our history. It’s history we need to know about and it’s important that everyone would come to this,” Oder said.

Oder says staff are excited about the commemoration because all eyes will be on the location and that will allow them to tell the ‘true story’ of history.

That includes the beginnings of slavery in America.

“We’re going to have to stare face to face at what occurred at Fort Monroe when those first Africans arrived here. We’re going to have to face that, talk about that. We are going to introduce that into our culture and it happens this weekend at Fort Monroe,” Oder said.

Old Point Comfort or Fort Monroe as it is known today was inhabitated by Native Americans before English colonists arrived.

After Fort Monroe was built, it served as a place of refugee for 10,000 runaway slaves during the Civil War.

“Freedom’s Fortress” officials and staff hope this weekend’s events will start a dialogue that’s much needed in our country about race so it can continue to move forward.

“I hope people leave feeling for the first time, I’ve learned the true history, history we’ve never talked about before. Wouldn’t it be amazing if the country stopped and realized this is where important things happen, things we’ve never talked about before. What an educational experience this is going to be for our country,” Oder said.

There will be events for the commemoration throughout the weekend, click here for the full list.

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