Historian works to ‘humanize those enslaved’ at Fort MonroeHistorians in the News
tags: slavery, historians
A trove of historical records tells us Fort Monroe in Hampton was built on the backs of thousands of African slaves.
But little was known about their identities or who they were — until now.
Meet Amos Henley, 23. Skilled, but unpaid for his efforts, Henley was among hundreds leased out by slave owners to the Army — and fetching a tidy sum for them. They labored between 1820 and 1824 during the days when the foundation of the stone fortress was laid.
Henley, who worked on a barge crew daily from sunrise to sunset, died in 1821 during an accident while hauling stone with a windlass crank at Old Point Comfort.
Notably, there is a primary record of his story and other slave laborers that include first and last names — significant because it was created in a register some 50 years before the first African Americans (except for free blacks) were counted in a U.S. Census.
The register, handwritten entries in two books, is the subject of a recently published paper, “Humanizing the Enslaved of Fort Monroe’s Arc of Freedom,” written by Casemate Museum historian W. Robert Kelly.
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