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HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — Fort Monroe, the site of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in English North America in 1619, has been named a UNESCO Slave Route Project site.
Gov. Ralph Northam announced the international designation from the United Nations on Friday at Fort Monroe, which came during the middle of Black History Month.
The initiative to share the history of slavery launched in 1994 in Ouidah, Benin, and has three main objectives:
- Contribute to a better understanding of the causes, forms of operation, stakes and consequences of slavery in the world (Africa, Europe, the Americas, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean, Middle East and Asia);
- Highlight the global transformations and cultural interactions that have resulted from this history;
- Contribute to a culture of peace by promoting reflection on inclusion, cultural pluralism, intercultural dialogue and the construction of new identities and citizenships
While Fort Monroe is already a national monument and a major component in United States history, officials said the designation helps to share the fort’s story on the world stage. They’re hoping more people visit the site, pointing to not only its history but its scenic location on the Chesapeake Bay with beaches and boat access.
WAVY will have more coverage later today.
Northam and other leaders visited Fort Monroe in 2019 on the 400th anniversary to commemorate that moment, and directed the formation of a commission to review instruction of African American history in Virginia. A historical marker also now stands there to commemorate the landing.
“We often fail to draw the connecting lines from those past events to our present day, but to move forward, that is what we must do,” Northam said at the ceremony. “We know that racism and discrimination aren’t locked in the past. They weren’t solved with the Civil Rights Act. They didn’t disappear. They merely evolved.”
Fort Monroe continues to tell untold and lesser know stories. They will be hosting a virtual event, “Evolution of Freedom,” on Feb. 25.