History Is Made: Fort Monroe Becomes Newest National Monument
History was made on November 1, when President Obama proclaimed a shuttered Army fort in Virginia with an important role in the nation’s slavery history to be a national monument.
Using his authority under the century-old Antiquities law for the first time in his presidency, Mr. Obama signed a proclamation designating Fort Monroe a national monument. That saves it from major development and preserves its history for generations.
Edgar Allen Poe Wrote “Annabel Lee” Here
The star fort was built in the 1800s with construction overseen by Robert E. Lee. At Fort Monroe, Edgar Allen Poe wrote “Annabel Lee” while serving in the military here; both Chief Blackhawk and Jefferson Davis were imprisoned within its walls; and Harriet Tubman nursed the sick at the fort’s hospital.
From The Washington Post:
At a signing ceremony in the Oval Office, Obama said the fort had played a “remarkable role in the history of our nation.” He said he looked forward to visiting and taking daughters Malia and Sasha along to get “a sense of their history.”
The fort and the land it sits on are historically significant because it was where Dutch traders first brought enslaved Africans in 1619. It remained in Union possession during the Civil War and became a place where escaped slaves could find refuge. Confederate President Jefferson Davis also was imprisoned there after the Civil War.
Obama said the fort also helped create the environment that led President Abraham Lincoln to sign the Emancipation Proclamation.
But the government decided in a 2005 cost-cutting move to close the fort and many other military installations. In September, the Army ended its 188-year presence there.
President Obama Grabbed The Chance To Talk About Jobs
And the President did not miss the opportunity to push his agenda.
In addition to its historical significance, Mr. Obama noted the economic value of Fort Monroe’s designation as a national monument. He said local officials have estimated that a plan for reusing the site would help create nearly 3,000 jobs in next-door Virginia. Was he weighing the importance of winning Virginia in 2012?
“Fort Monroe has played a part in some of the darkest and some of the most heroic moments in American history. But today isn’t just about preserving a national landmark. It’s about helping to create jobs and grow the local economy,” Obama said in a paper statement released earlier Tuesday. “Steps like these won’t replace the bold action we need from Congress to get our economy moving and strengthen middle-class families, but they will make a difference.”
The Grand Canyon, Statue Of Liberty, Ellis Island, Protected By Antiquities Act
Although this is the first time President Obama has utilized the Antiquities Act, presidents dating to Theodore Roosevelt have used the 1906 law to protect sites deemed to have natural, historical or scientific significance, including the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
Welcome, Fort Monroe, to the hundred or so existing national monuments.
Photo Credit: Anthony Prater