Welcome to Fort Monroe National Monument (FOMR) and the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the first landing of Africans in an English North American Colony. Fort Monroe National Monument is one of the most cherished monuments in the United States. It will be here for our children, and for the generations to come afterwards. The national observation of this anniversary is the culmination of the leadership and vision of so many. I am indebted to the support of my staff, the National Park Service, Fort Monroe Authority, the City of Hampton, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the Hampton Roads community that have embraced me. Together, we will provide an invaluable opportunity for learning and dialogue among visitors from across the country and around the world. Fort Monroe will serve as the epicenter of education on the introduction of Africans in English North America.
The history surrounding Old Point Comfort has many layers of complicated and multi-racial themes that span the history of the United States as a whole. This site was inhabited by the American Indians well before the arrival of the English in 1607. Africans soon arrived here in 1619 creating a fundamental presence that changed the course of history of this nation. It is important to underscore the word COMMEMORATION because it can easily be confused with CELEBRATION. This is not a celebration. There will be moments for that, however, we must respectfully honor, lift up, and embrace this international story and the role that the United States has played. For hundreds of years, slavery was the most profound and vexatious social problem plaguing this nation. The institution of slavery deserves close study because of the disastrous impact it created, if for no other reason. This is our opportunity to officially remember the trials and tribulations as well as the contributions of Africans and African Americans. It is our moment to embrace the West African concept of Sankofa, which teaches us that we must go back to our roots in order to move forward.
The history associated with Fort Monroe goes well beyond what we read in history books. For far too long, the history surrounding the experiences of minorities and women have been largely overlooked or disregarded. From time to time, the past needs to be reexamined to ensure that all experiences are included in the unified story of our past. We do not intend to change history or revise it, but rather to insure we emphasis the diversity of perspectives and bring new considerations to the combined historical narrative.
There is a host of events and programs scheduled throughout the coming year to coincide with the opening of the new visitor and education center at Fort Monroe. I encourage you to learn more about what is happening throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia by visiting Hampton, VA 2019 Commemorative Commission website at hamptonva2019.com and Americanevolution2019.com. The 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution™, will feature events, programs, and legacy projects that will inspire local, national, and international engagement in the themes of democracy, diversity, and opportunity.
As superintendent, it is my goal to make everyone feel welcomed here at Fort Monroe. This is your park and your community. Together, we will create a space that promotes mutual respect and provides an opportunity for continued dialogue. Please join us in commemorating this special anniversary.
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