National Trust for Historic Preservation Encourages President Obama to Designate Virginia's Fort Monroe a National Monument
Posted June 9, 2011 | Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-588-6141
Washington, DC (June 9, 2011)—One hundred fifty years ago, three brave enslaved men, Shepard Mallory, Frank Baker, and James Townsend, escaped the Confederate Army and fled in a small boat to Virginia’s Fort Monroe. There, the Union Army commander seized these men as “contraband” of war, an unusual legal maneuver that provided refuge for the three men, and in turn, heralded the beginning of the end of slavery in America. Over the course of the Civil War, a total of over 500,000 enslaved people would follow in the footsteps of those first three, leading to one of the Civil War’s most extraordinary—and overlooked—chapters. To celebrate the bravery of these 500,000 self-emancipated men, women and children, and to permanently preserve the nationally important historic site where these momentous events took place, the National Trust for Historic Preservation is calling on President Obama to designate Fort Monroe as a National Monument.
In a letter to President Obama, National Trust for Historic Preservation President Stephanie Meeks asked the President to exercise the powers granted to the chief executive under the 1906 Antiquities Act to designate Fort Monroe a National Monument, which would make it an official part of the National Park Service.
“For more than 100 years, presidents have used the Antiquities Act to enshrine and protect some of America’s most important and beloved historic places, from the Grand Canyon to the Statue of Liberty to Chaco Canyon,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “On the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and the momentous events that took place at Fort Monroe, we feel that this is an especially appropriate time to recognize the critical role this place has played in our nation’s history. Designating Fort Monroe as a National Monument will ensure that future generations of Americans can learn from, and be inspired by, this vital piece of American history.”
Background on Fort Monroe and the "Contraband" Movement
The construction of Fort Monroe was completed in 1834, and it served as the assembly, training, and embarkation point for U.S. forces involved in the Seminole Wars, the suppression of Nat Turner’s Rebellion, the Black Hawk War, and the Mexican War. Arguably most compelling is its role as the birthplace of the Civil War-era “Contraband” movement for self-emancipation. Contraband heritage is one of the least well-known and most important chapters of American history. Contraband heritage commemorates the struggles and triumphs of 500,000 African American women, children, and men who freed themselves from slavery at great risk and, thereby, secured their own liberty, influenced national politics, and hastened the formal Emancipation Proclamation.
For further information on this historic event, please visit: http://blog.preservationnation.org/2011/05/11/the-contraband-of-america-and-the-road-to-freedom/
The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places.