Fort Monroe Hosts, "Escape for Freedom: From Slave to Contraband," Sesquicentennial Celebration May 21 & May 24

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In 1861, three escaped slaves appealed for protection and were judged to be “contraband of war.” In the months that followed, thousands of slaves took refuge behind the Union lines, reshaping the landscape of the Civil War and eventually leading to emancipation. On May 21 and 24, commemorate the 150th anniversary of the courageous actions of Shepard Mallory, Frank Baker, and James Townsend, and the monumental decision made by Union Major General Benjamin Butler, during two celebrations at historic Fort Monroe.

In 1861, three escaped slaves appealed for protection and were judged to be “contraband of war.” In the months that followed, thousands of slaves took refuge behind the Union lines, reshaping the landscape of the Civil War and eventually leading to emancipation. On May 21 and 24, commemorate the 150th anniversary of the courageous actions of Shepard Mallory, Frank Baker, and James Townsend, and the monumental decision made by Union Major General Benjamin Butler, during two celebrations at historic Fort Monroe. “Escape for Freedom: From Slave to Contraband,” presented by the Contraband Historical Society, will feature a procession-style parade, family activities, food, conference, panel discussion, and more.

Saturday May 21 will include an introduction by Master of Ceremonies and WAVY-TV 10 anchor Don Roberts; welcomes by Fort Monroe Post Commander Col. Anthony Reyes and Hampton Mayor Molly Joseph Ward; and guest speakers, including Ms. Thulani Davis, great-granddaughter of William Roscoe Davis (renowned contraband lighthouse keeper at Fort Monroe), and Mr. Asa Gordon of the Sons & Daughters of the U.S. Colored Troops. Also presented will be the re-enactments of the contraband decisions, live music, and more. The commemoration commences with a procession-style parade starting on the promenade grounds (by the gazebo, near the bandstand along the waterfront) and concluding on the parade grounds inside the moat.

On Tuesday, May 24, the actual anniversary of the contraband decision, the Post Theatre at Fort Monroe will host an evening of panel discussions and contraband descendants. Attendees will have the opportunity to understand the contraband’s significance and its impact our nation’s history.

Saturday, May 21, 2011
Parade Grounds, Fort Monroe
10:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Procession-Style Parade
Re-enactors
Contraband Descendants
Family Activities
Food
Crafts, Puppets, and more

Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Post Theatre, Fort Monroe
6:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Panel Discussion
Contraband Descendants
Renowned Authors

Fort Monroe, VA
23651

For further information on the Contraband of War Sesquicentennial Celebration events on May 21 and May 24, contact the Contraband Historical Society at 757/325-0678 or check out http://www.contrabandhistoricalsociety.org.

The Contraband Historical Society is an organization of concerned citizens whose mission is to research, preserve and promote the history, legacy, and contributions of the slaves, who were considered “Contraband of War.” They were liberated on May 24, 1861 at Fortress Monroe, Virginia by Commanding Officer Major General Benjamin F. Butler. As a result, Fort Monroe became known as “Freedom’s Fortress.”

In the spring of 1861, three slaves – Frank Baker, James Townsend and Shepard Mallory – were sent by their masters to dig fortifications for the Confederate army. Instead, they decided to flee to Fort Monroe, looking to the U.S. Army for help. On May 24, 1861, a Virginia militia officer came to the fort demanding the return of the men. The fort’s commander, Major General Benjamin F. Butler, refused. Butler stated that since the men were being described as property and were being used in the Confederate war effort, the rules of war allowed him to confiscate that “property” as “contraband of war.” Butler’s far-reaching gesture prompted thousands of slaves to run to Hampton to Fort Monroe to get behind Union lines and join in the Union’s war effort in exchange for their liberation.

The “contraband decision” occurred nearly two years before President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, and four years before the Thirteenth Amendment abolished all slavery in the United States.

Partially bordered by the Hampton Roads harbor and Chesapeake Bay, Hampton, with the 344,000 sq. ft. Hampton Roads Convention Center, is located in the center of the Hampton Roads metropolitan area. Hampton is the site of America's first continuous English-speaking settlement and is home to such visitor attractions as the Virginia Air & Space Center and Riverside IMAX ® Theater, Hampton History Museum, harbor tours and cruises, Hampton University Museum, Fort Monroe, award-winning Hampton Coliseum, The American Theatre, among others.

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