HAMPTON—Fort Monroe is a landmark in the black history of the United States. It is the first place where Africans arrived and where slaves sought refuge during the Civil War more than 200 years later.
It is a connection being drawn on by the organizers of Hampton 400, which marks the city's 400th anniversary.
In the late summer of 1619, a Dutch ship with Africans, believed to be indentured servants, aboard landed at Point Comfort, the present site of Fort Monroe. It would be in the 19th century that Fort Monroe played a major role in the dismantling of slavery.
In 1861, Union Gen. Benjamin F. Butler proclaimed that slaves escaping over Union lines were considered "Contraband of War," and not to be returned. As increasing numbers of slaves took refuge there, it became known as "Freedom's Fortress."
Hampton 400 includes a series of events to commemorate the city's African American history:
•A photographic exhibition "The City of Hampton: Through the Lens of Reuben V. Burrell and James Van Der Zee" is running until Aug. 30 at Hampton University Museum, the nation's oldest African-American museum.
•There will be a Black History Month Celebration at the Virginia Air and Space Center on Feb. 13.
•"The International Children's Festival" is set for April 17 at Mill Point Park in downtown Hampton.
•The American Theater in Phoebus will showcase a number of African-American themed performances all year. On April 17, the venue plays host to "Underground Railway: How Do You Spell Hope?" The show includes three stories of courage and compassion in the face of illiteracy; the historical narrative of Frederick Douglass, the true story of a teenage athlete who overcomes dyslexia, and the struggles of a contemporary immigrant family.
•The 20th annual Afrikan American Festival will be held in Mill Point Park from June 25-27.
For information about events, see www.visithampton.com