WASHINGTON, D.C.—Adam Goodheart, director of the C.V. Starr Center at Washington College, was in the Oval Office Tuesday, Nov. 1, when President Obama signed the executive order naming Virginia’s Fort Monroe a National Monument. Goodheart’s focus on the fort in his best-selling book 1861: The Civil War Awakening and in an excerpt published in the New York Times Magazine (“How Slavery Really Ended in America,” April 1, 2011) were influential in making the case that the fort was an important historic site worth preserving.
Goodheart’s writing brought to light the story of three slaves who in May 1861 escaped their Confederate slaveholders and sought refuge in the Union garrison at Fort Monroe. That courageous act by the three slaves marked the real beginning of emancipation, he contends.
Virginia officials sent Goodheart’s book and the Times excerpt to key members of the Obama Administration who were considering National Landmark status for the fort. They also asked Goodheart to write a letter directly to the President explaining the site’s significance. In recognition of his role, the White House invited the historian to witness yesterday’s signing along with elected officials and U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
Yesterday’s signing ceremony marked the first time President Obama has used his power to create a new National Monument.
Goodheart described the experience as “thrilling, and a great honor,” and says he was able to speak briefly with President Obama before and after the signing. “We chatted about my book and the historical significance of the fort. He asked me about the college, and I told him about our proud presidential tradition going back to George Washington. He said, ‘Sounds like a pretty good place to study history.’ ” recalls Goodheart. “I asked him if he'd ever been to the Eastern Shore and he said he hadn't, so I told him we'd love to have him out here anytime, and also that I hoped Malia and Sasha would consider coming here one day.”
Photos: Top, in this official White House photo by Pete Souza, Adam Goodheart chats with President Obama after the official signing ceremony. Bottom, from left at the signing: Adam Goodheart, Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., Hampton, Va., Mayor Molly Ward, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., Robert Russa Moton Museum Director Lacy Ward Jr., Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., and Army Secretary John McHugh. Photograph by Susan Walsh for AP.
For more coverage on this historic event:
Obama designates Fort Monroe a national monument - Darlene Superville, The Associated Press
President Obama Designates Fort Monroe A National Monument, Historic For Role In Slavery - Trymaine Lee, The Huffington Post
In the Oval Office, a Passage to Freedom - Adam Goodheart, The New York Times