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

In 2019, the Fort Monroe National Monument welcomed 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, 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 hosted drama, poetry, musical performances, “Campfire Talk” presentations and special events that highlighted 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 which included dedication and remembrance ceremonies, gallery exhibits, historical tours, conferences, cultural workshops and a concert featuring Sounds of Blackness.

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

Events kicked off at 9:30 am with a commemoration ceremony and preview of the Fort Monroe Visitor and Education Center followed by 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.