Memorial recognizing first enslaved Africans coming to Hampton

Fort Monroe.jpeg
Posted at 11:29 PM, Feb 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-28 15:54:56-05

HAMPTON, Va. - The 400-year anniversary of the first enslaved Africans arriving in Virginia brought thousands of people to Fort Monroe last August.

“Finally, people are starting to pay attention that National Park Service being here, the influence from Governor Northam. It's actually coming together now, so we can focus on commemorating this moment,” said the director of Fort Monroe, Glenn Oder.

He is overseeing the African Landing Project that’s coming to Hampton, which will include a memorial.

Brian Owens is the visual artist who will be designing it. He says he wants to “create an emotional response in the viewer. We want them to be moved in some way.”

A public input meeting was hosted at the Visitors Center Thursday night. The community shared their ideas on what they want the memorial to evoke.

“I want people to feel compassion,” said attendee and Hampton resident Pamela Holley.

Leaders say the memorial will be in the area of Fort Monroe by the Chesapeake Bay.

“The impact that they’ve had on our country - it’s time for all of us to recognize that,” said Oder.

Owens has experience with different sculptures across the country from Michigan to St. Louis, but he says this one will be different.

“There is a gravity and an importance to that that supersedes my previous projects. The scope is just off the charts,” says Owens.

A design won’t be finalized until later this year, but Owens already an idea of what the memorial will look like.

“I see it being made of almost entirely metal and granite,” he adds.

For more on the project, click here.