As a child growing up in Hampton, visits to Fort Monroe were commonplace. It was right up the road a little from where I lived, and it was very easy to get to. My memories of visiting the Fort included touring the Casemate Museum, as well as being in proximity to the esteemed Chamberlain Hotel. It was an old army fort to me, a relic of war history, nothing more. At least, that is what I remember.
Imagine my surprise when I heard about the City of Hampton’s plans for commemorating a very historic moment in time that happened right there, on the grounds of Ft. Monroe. I took a moment to research, and I found out more about this parcel of land. I discovered that what took place here directly affected my life as an African-American here in Virginia and in the United States.
A Little Bit of History
In 1607, the colony of Jamestown, Virginia was established. Captain Christopher Newport and Captain John Smith discovered and recognized the importance of Old Point Comfort (on the site of present-day Fort Monroe) for defense of the coast in that area.
Then in August 1619, a Dutch ship arrived at Old Point Comfort with 30 enslaved Africans. They were of Angolan ancestry, and had been sold into slavery from the west coast of Africa. Their arrival is believed to mark the beginning of slavery in America.
Wait…what? How did I not know this substantial fact? The first enslaved Africans arrived right there, in Hampton? I had to sit with that for a moment.
And sit…….until it sunk in a bit.
And so I was very grateful when I received an invitation to Tour Hampton and so that I could absorb and experience some of the history there. I will get the chance to visit (and revisit) some of the key historical places in Hampton which tie directly to the arrival of enslaved Africans on the shores of Virginia right there at Old Point Comfort. With the knowledge that I have now as an adult, I think that I will appreciate that history in way more depth than I ever have before.
To prepare you for the Tour next week, I’d like to share this video with you, from The Hampton 2019 Commemorative Commission:
I look forward to sharing what I see with you soon. Here’s to seeing history with new eyes,