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From Point Comfort to Fort Monroe: The 400th Anniversary of the African Landing

This year, the Fort Monroe National Monument welcomes events and programs associated with the 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution™and the 400th anniversary of the first Africans to arrive in English North America. At the new Fort Monroe Visitor and Education Center, opening in August, visitors will learn more about the 1619 African arrival story, the 1861 Contraband Decision and the military presence at the Fort. Throughout the year, Fort Monroe will host drama, poetry, musical performances, “Campfire Talk” presentations and special events that will highlight the struggles and triumphs of the Africans who first came to our shores and of those who came after. 

August 23-25, 2019
400th Anniversary Commemorative Weekend

A multi-day celebration centered around the First African arrival, including dedication and remembrance ceremonies, gallery exhibits, historical tours, conferences, cultural workshops and a concert featuring Sounds of Blackness.

August 24, 2019
Commemoration Ceremony and Dedication of the Fort Monroe Visitor & Education Center

Events begin 9:30 am with a commemoration ceremony and dedication of the Fort Monroe Visitor and Education Center. Stay for the rest of the day and enjoy cultural demonstrations, vendors, children’s activities, and more in Continental Park.

First African Arrival

In 1619, the ship carrying the first enslaved Africans in the New World reached the shores of North America at Point Comfort, now Fort Monroe. Far from their home in Angola, these farmers, blacksmiths, herders andartisans survived capture and displacement and helped a fledgling nation survive.

The Contraband Decision

During the Civil War, Fort Monroe became known as “Freedom’s Fortress” based on the Contraband Decision of 1861 when three fugitive slaves sought refuge at the fort. Just two years later, President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Emancipation Proclamation guaranteeing freedom for all persons held as slaves.

The Black Cultural Tour

Follow the historical connection between African Americans and Fort Monroe by taking the Black Cultural Tour. From Engineer Wharf, marking the first landing of Africans at Old Point Comfort, to the “Contraband Hospital” site where, in 1863, Harriet Tubman served as a nurse and cook, you can take an enjoyable and informative eight-stop walking or driving tour.

Mark Your Calendar

Join us for the 400th Anniversary Commemorative Weekend August 23-25 including the Commemoration Ceremony and Dedication of the Fort Monroe Visitor & Education Center Saturday, August 24! Following is a list of 400th Commemoration events. 2019 will be a year to remember at Fort Monroe. We invite you to join us.

Garrison Life at Fort Monroe: A Gathering of Steel for the Peninsula Campaign, 1862
Mar 30 @ 11:00 am – Mar 31 @ 12:00 pm

Experience the sights and sounds of the American Civil War garrison of Fort Monroe as the forces of the United States and the Army of the Potomac assemble to strike out hoping to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. Events will focus on the civilian, military, and African American experience at Fort Monroe in 1862.

Special Event: Gospel Concert @ Fort Monroe Theatre
Apr 18 all-day

A night of traditional and old Negro Spirituals of the past.
Hosted by the Southeastern Virginia Arts Association.
Located in the Fort Monroe Theatre

Standing on the Shore @ Fort Monroe Theatre
May 4 @ 9:21 pm – 10:21 pm

Beginning with the arrival of Africans on the shores of Old Point Comfort, this moving and reflective musical work uses drama, poetry, song, and dance to recount 400 years of the African American experience in North America. Presented by Goode Dance Academy at the
Fort Monroe Theatre.

Memorial Day and Flag Retirement Ceremony
May 27 @ 1:00 pm – 1:00 pm

This annual ceremony in partnership with the Fort Monroe Authority, Colonies RV and Travel Park, and Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America memorializes the men and women who have fallen in service to the United States and will highlight the honorable service of generations of African Americans. The ceremony will conclude with a retirement of worn, and unserviceable flags in the proper manner.

Campfire Talk Series: Introduction to Slavery @ The Colonies RV and Travel ParkPark, Shelter #5
Jun 7 @ 7:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Learn about our often complicated past with a primer on the practice of slavery in North America.

Campfire Talk Series: Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass @ The Colonies RV and Travel ParkPark, Shelter #5
Jun 14 @ 7:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Learn about our often complicated past with a primer on the practice of slavery in North America.

The 1st Annual Juneteenth “Junie” Awards Convention Honoring Protectors of Truth, Justice and Liberty
Jun 19 @ 1:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Fort Monroe 1619-1861: Enslaved to Freedom: Fort Monroe Theatre will be transformed into the set for a raucous political convention reminiscent of those made famous by 19th century suffragettes and abolitionists replete with signs, balloons and plenty of passion for their candidates and causes.

Campfire Talk Series: The American Civil War Era @ The Colonies RV and Travel ParkPark, Shelter #5
Jun 21 @ 7:00 pm – 7:00 pm

An era of complexity and struggle over the questions of slavery that resulted in a civil war that would impact everyone in the United States and bring the country to the brink of destruction and the end of slavery.

Campfire Talk Series: Reconstruction @ The Colonies RV and Travel ParkPark, Shelter #5
Jun 28 @ 7:00 pm – 7:00 pm

The era after the American Civil War created new opportunities and hardships for African Americans. Explore the experiences faced in this new United States of America.

Fourth at the Fort: 4th of July Flag Ceremony
Jul 4 @ 1:00 pm – 1:00 pm

This annual ceremony in partnership with the Fort Monroe Authority, Casemate Museum, and James Monroe Memorial Foundation observes the 188th anniversary of the 1831 death of President James Monroe. 2019 will honor the legacy and connections of “Freedom’s Fortress,” and explore the efforts to bridge the historical racial divide between communities in Virginia.