Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Hawthornes and Maxine Visit The Site Of The Roanoke Island Freedmen's Colony.

After visiting the Elizabeth II we headed over to Fort Raleigh National Historic Site and to the Freedmen's Colony. Shortly after North Carolina's secession from the Union, the Confederacy established 3 forts on Roanoke Island, which lies between the North Carolina mainland and the Barrier Islands known as the Outer Banks. Capture of Roanoke Island, Feb. 8, 1862, by Currier and Ives. After the Battle of Roanoke Island waged between 20,000 soldiers and sailors and over 60 ships, the Confederate troops were forced to surrender and Roanoke Island became Union-occupied. Once slaves heard that the Union army had established a presence on Roanoke Island, they streamed across Union lines with hopes of obtaining freedom. Roanoke Island became home to thousands of former slaves, organized into refugee camps. General Burnside, who successfully commandeered the Battle of Roanoke Island, also known as the Burnside Expedition, considered these former slaves to be "contraband" of war and granted them the status of freedmen. Bit of trivia: General Ambrose Burnside's distinctive style of facial hair is now known as sideburns, derived from his last name. At first, these refugees settled near the Union headquarters, and created a community that included churches and a school. As word of the freedmen's camp spread, more and more former slaves fled to the island. This camp evolved into a government-sanctioned colony in 1863. Major General John G. Foster, Commander of the 18th Army Corps, ordered Horace James, a Congregational minister from New England who was serving as a chaplain in the Union army, to establish a colony of former slaves on the island. Anticipating that many of the black men would be recruited into the Union army, the military saw the need to provide a safe sanctuary for their families. Thus, the contraband camp officially became a recognized colony. Descendants of the Freedmen's Colony have established an organization to preserve and celebrate the history and heritage of the colony.
The First Light Of Freedom Former slaves give thanks by the creek's edge at the sight of the island - "If you can cross the creek to Roanoke Island, you will find 'safe haven.' " National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom
The First Light of Freedom monument was dedicated to the Roanoke Island Freedmen's Colony. It was unveiled on September 14, 2001 and stands outside the National Park Service's visitor center at the Fort Raleigh Historic Site on the north end of Roanoke Island.
"If you can cross the creek to Roanoke Island, you will find safe haven."
The Roanoke Island Freedmen's Colony is recognized as a historic National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Site.
Bondage and they made their lives bitter with hard bondage Exodus 1:14 For the millions of immigrants to this land, America has not been so much a destination as a promise: a promise of equality, a promise of self-determination and a promise of a better life for self and children. Not so for the slave. With their arrival at the Jamestown colony in August of 1619, twenty captive Africans began a legacy of chattel bondage that by 1850 would include 15 states, 4 territories and the District of Columbia, with 3,952,760 enslaved. Although mindless labor, physical abuse, and family destruction were typical of slave life, there was yet a greater tragedy. It was the slaves' agony to witness the promise of America enjoyed by others, to help build that promise and be denied its fruits. This indeed may have been the greatest horror of slavery. You are loosed from your moorings And are free. I am fast to my chains, And am a slave! You move merrily before the gentle gale, and I sadly before the bloody whip! You are freedom's swift winged angels, that fly around the world; I am of iron! O that I were free! Deliverance Thus saith the Lord, Let my people go. Exodus 8:1 The bloodbath called the Civil War had begun and would cost the lives of over 600,000 Americans. As the Union armies advanced south, refugee slaves followed. After the Norther capture of Roanoke Island in February 1862 more than 3000 ex-slaves arrived on this island. At the direction of Maj. Gen. John G. Foster, Army chaplain Horace James organized a formal colony with one-acre lots provided for about 600 families on the northern end of the island. Schools, mills, and houses were built. At the war's end almost 6000 ex-slaves resided in Freedmen's Town. These people tasted the sweet air of liberty for the first time on the north end of Roanoke Island. Marriages were legalized and equal rights and privileges were granted in courts of law. The promise seemed to be finally coming true for African Americans and they discovered what all free people know. Freedom is never free. With my hands against my breast I was going to my work when the overseer used to whip me along. Now, no more of that, no more of that. We're free now, bless the Lord. They can't sell my wife and child anymore bless the Lord, no more of that, no more of that. Harriet Tubman, 1862
The Promised Land I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither. The Proclamation of Emancipation gave the military authority to enlist "such persons of suitable condition ... into the armed service of the United States" and the Bureau of Colored Troops was established. Many African- Americans served with distinction. Despite the promise and participation, African-Americans in many instances, would continue to be denied their rightful place. Reconstruction fostered a racist attitude, creating the "Jim Crow" laws designed to cheat them of their birthright. With the 1960's and the Civil Rights movement, African- Americans gained greater standing in American society and on August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave us a vision of what the future could bring. "When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritua , 'Free at last, free at last. Thank God almighty we are free at last.' " We, as a nation, still seek for all the dream that is American ... and the struggle continues. Perhaps over the next hilltop lies the "Promised Land."

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