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Obama urged to make Fort Monroe a monument
By David Macaulay, email@example.com | 247-7838
President Barack Obama is being urged to speed up Fort Monroe's request for national park status in the 150th anniversary year of the start the Civil War.
Hampton Mayor Molly Ward, who is the Fort Monroe Authority's representative on a legislative committee working to bring a park service unit to the historic post, said local legislators have written to the president asking him to make Monroe a national monument.
"We have requested from our congressional delegation …a letter to the president asking him to create a National Monument site at Fort Monroe by executive order," Ward said.
The letter is signed by local U.S. Reps. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott, D-Newport News; Rob Wittman, R-Westmoreland; Scott Rigell, R-Virginia Beach; and Randy Forbes, R-Chesapeake.
National monuments are similar to national parks but they can be created by a president without the approval of congress.
"We believe that option is absolutely viable and appropriate given the fact that we're approaching the 150th anniversary of the contraband slave decision and we are examining our country's history in light of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War," Ward said Tuesday.
The advantage of a presidential declaration would be a national monument could be created as soon as this year at Monroe, while a national park could take years to set up.
However, the Fort Monroe Authority is pursuing a twin track approach. It is also working on legislation for Congress to set up a national park.
When Monroe's commander Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler refused to return three slaves who came to the fortress in 1861, effectively classifying them as "contraband" of war, it changed the course of the Civil War.
Ward believes a national monument would celebrate this legacy as well as the fact the first African Americans to arrive in America landed at the site of the future fort in 1619 en route to Jamestown.