President Obama is expected to declare Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia a national monument Tuesday Afternoon.
Both the fort and location played an important part in the beginning and end of America's slave history. Dutch traders first brought African slaves to the area in 1619. In the early 19th century, Fort Monroe became a strategic military base for the Virginia Colony.
Most importantly, more than half a million slaves sought refuge in the fort, during the Civil War.
Three African American slaves originally fled from the Confederate Army to Fort Monroe. The Union Army commander protected them as contraband of war and soon more than a half million African Americans followed in their steps.
Contraband heritage commemorates the struggles and triumphs of 500,000 African American women, children, and men who freed themselves from slavery at great risk and, thereby, secured their own liberty, influenced national politics, and hastened the formal Emancipation Proclamation, Stephanie Meeks, President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, said in an earlier letter to the president.
In 2005, the government announced the closure of the fort under budget constraints and this September, the fort was officially deactivated.
President Obama is using his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate the fort a national monument. This will be the first time Obama has exercised this power.
Theodore Roosevelt first used this power in 1906 to declare Devil's Tower in Wyoming a national monument. 14 presidents have used the act to protect landmarks such as Ellis Island and the Grand Canyon.
Obama hopes to create jobs through the plan. The White House used statistics from the 2009 Fort Monroe Authority that estimated nearly 3,000 jobs would be created in Virginia by implementing a Fort Monroe reuse plan.
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. 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, Obama said in a written statement.
Fort Monroe also has pending legislation to become a national park. If this passes, more than half of the property will be run by the park service and Fort Monroe Authority, a state entity, would develop and administrate the rest. Hampton, Virginia began the movement for the national park back in 2005 when the announcement of the closure was made.