By Randy Singleton
New Journal and Guide
Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Friday (Feb 19) that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has designated Fort Monroe as a Site of Memory Associated with the UNESCO Slave Route project. Fort Monroe shares this distinction with more than 50 other sites and entities linked to the history of the transatlantic slave trade. A historic marker will be placed on the grounds of the forthcoming African Landing Memorial at Fort Monroe.
In August 2019, Fort Monroe was the site of the 400th commemoration of the first Africans brought to English North America at Point Comfort, today’s Fort Monroe in Hampton. A highly touted and well-financed weekend of museum exhibits, heritage tours, Living History interpretation, multicultural cuisine and crafts, keynote speakers and musical performances, including a Free concert at Hampton Coliseum were a part of the observances.
Gov. Northam was joined in the announcement at the newly-dedicated Fort Monroe Visitor and Education Center by a host of state and local officials. Among those in attendance was Vincent Tucker whose family runs the William Tucker 1624 Society set up to preserve the Tucker Family history and ties to the first Africans arriving in 1619. William Tucker was the first known African child born in America to Antoney and Isabella.
Vincent Tucker called the designation an honor and “allows Fort Monroe to be a light.”
Much of the history about the first Africans in America has centered on the importance of nearby Jamestown and the settlement that existed there. The shift in national attention to the landing at Fort Monroe and Hampton’s importance in this early American history is relatively recent.