Fort Monroe (also known as Fortress Monroe), a historic fort in Virginia’s Tidewater region of Hampton, played a pivotal role in the history of slavery in the United States. Built between 1819 and 1834, Fort Monroe has occupied a strategic coastal defensive position since the earliest days of the Virginia Colony. It was the place where the Dutch purchased Africans in 1619.
Today, the President will sign a proclamation designating Fort Monroe a national monument today in the Oval Office.
During the Civil War, the fort remained in Union possession and became a place for escaped slaves to find refuge. Fort Monroe was the site of General Benjamin Butler’s “Contraband Decision” in 1861, which provided a pathway to freedom for thousands of enslaved Africans during the Civil War and served as a forerunner of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863.
Fort Monroe closed on September 15, 2011. Many of its functions were transferred to nearby Fort Eustis (which was named for Fort Monroe's first commander, General Abraham Eustis, a noted artillery expert). Several re-use plans for Fort Monroe after it is decommissioned are currently under development in the Hampton community. (Source)
Today marks the first time President Obama has used this authority under the Antiquities Act. The announcement is part of a series of executive actions to put Americans back to work and strengthen the economy.