Superintendent Terry E. Brown
Protecting and preserving our nation’s resources is only part of our job at the National Park Service — we’re also America’s storytellers. And at Fort Monroe National Monument, our park contains the roots of some of our country’s most important — and complicated — stories.
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. The site was inhabited by the American Indians well before the arrival of the English in 1607. On August 25, 1619, the first ship carrying enslaved Africans to English occupied North America landed at Point Comfort (today’s Fort Monroe) in Hampton, VA. From that moment, their presence has had a profound impact on this nation’s development. The fort would later be known as “Freedom Fortress,” where thousands of enslaved Africans would also seek their freedom.
Our work to become “a more perfect union” begins with honoring our history in all its complexities. In August 2019, we’re commemorating the 400th anniversary of the landing of those very first Africans to these shores. The West African concept of Sankofa teaches us that we must go back to our roots in order to move forward. That’s why our 2019 programs are focused on the African American experience, including musical performances, the opening of our brand- new visitor center, and what is sure to be a powerful Healing Day on the anniversary itself.
In my 27 years wearing a ranger uniform, I’ve had many opportunities to make a difference. Visitors are changed by the stories of all those who passed through here — John Smith, Harriet Tubman, more than a dozen U.S. Presidents, and so many thousands more. And when I drive across the bridge to work each morning, it’s an emotional experience. I did a DNA test recently that showed my family line stretching across the ocean from Virginia back to Cameroon. And I often wonder if my ancestors arrived in this very place.
It’s my goal to make people of all backgrounds feel welcomed here at Fort Monroe. Come sit under the shade of the 500-year-old Algernoune Oak tree, and let’s talk about the arc of history it has witnessed. This is your park, and your community. Together, we’ll protect these stories forever — and learn how to become a more united country.