Freedmen’s Colony 150th Anniversary to be Commemorated
One hundred and fifty years ago, thousands of African-American slaves risked punishment, family separation, and even their lives to reach the freedom waiting for them on Roanoke Island. The story of the Freedmen’s Colony of Roanoke Island has a rich heritage--colony descendants still reside on the island today.
On Saturday, May 18, 2013 at 10:00 a.m., the National Park Service will present a ceremony to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the establishment of the Roanoke Island Freedmen’s Colony. The public is welcome to attend this event to remember the Freedmen’s Colony and celebrate this first 150 years of freedom.
As the Freedmen’s story is one of journeys--from slavery to freedom, from land of masters to land of self-determination, from the mainland to Roanoke Island—this commemoration will be an event of “journey” also. The event will start at 10:00 a.m. at the Dare County Old Swimming Hole Park at 410 Airport Road, Manteo, NC and, from there, the event will then “journey” to the visitor center at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. The Old Swimming Hole Park is the closest public property to the lands that were occupied by the Freedmen’s Colony. Fort Raleigh National Historic Site displays the First Light of Freedom Marker, which honors the Freedmen’s Colony.
Speakers will include Superintendent Barclay Trimble, Dare County Commissioner Virginia Tillett (Freedmen’s Colony descendent), Park Ranger Darrell Collins (Freedmen’s Colony descendent), and Dr. Patricia Click, author of Time Full of Trial: The Roanoke Island Freedmen’s Colony.
Formally established on May 14, 1863, the Freedmen’s Colony became home to 3,500 former slaves--men, women, and children. It was the first community of its kind in North Carolina. At its height, the colony provided its residents with land to farm, schools to obtain an education, places to worship, and jobs to learn skills and earn a living.
The Freedmen’s Colony of Roanoke Island was a very important first step on a journey for equality and freedom that still continues. It is for that reason that those Freedmen and their descendants, who remained here after closure of the colony in 1867, have called the Roanoke Island Freedmen’s Colony the “First Light of Freedom”.
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