Black History Month: Hotel D'Afrique - WRBL

Black History Month: Hotel D'Afrique

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CAPE HATTERAS, N.C. - The Outer Banks is a huge tourist spot and also home to some of North Carolina's most beautiful beaches.
    
The area is also known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic. And below the surface of the blue waters are the stories many have never heard.
    
As we kick off our Black History series, 9 On Your Side starts off remembering the place where slaves went looking for their freedom, at the site of the Union's first victory of the Civil War.

A stone marker is all that represents the huge role Hatteras Island played in our nation's history when it comes to slavery.
    
It was in August 1861 that Union forces captured Hatteras Island. That's when word of the victory spread to mainland plantations and to the slaves, ready to escape from their masters.

Fifteen miles across the sound and up Roanoke Island, hundreds of slaves would make their way to Fort Hatteras and Clark, a group of small shacks and barracks. 

Hotel D'Afrique was located on what is now the southwest and south side of the Graveyard of the Atlantic's parking lot.
    
The colony was officially established as a safe haven for fugitive slaves, who were considered contraband of the war by October 1861. It was a declaration that many slave owners didn't like.

From 1861 to 1865, the now freed slaves became a part of the union, in exchange for food and housing. They worked alongside troops, armed, and raiding confederate positions. Others worked as longshoremen, carpenters and blacksmiths.
    
The women cooked and cleaned.
    
Hotel D'Afrique was the first of its kind and short lived. The location was prime target for repeated storms and hurricanes. Eventually, they wiped the fort away and erased its physical presence.
    
The Union army, already working to establish more colonies for now emancipated slaves, provided more opportunities for advancement.

Soon, the war ended and order had to be restored. All that land that was confiscated by the Union army had to be returned to the original owners, which in the end, didn't fare well for the island's black residents.
    
When that transition happened at the end of the war, those thousands of African Americans who lived in those safe havens failed to receive any of their rights and privileges promised by the government when they established the colonies.
    
Blacks left the area. And by 1867, the freedman's colony was officially decommissioned, all of the structures now gone.
    
As of August last year, the Hotel D'Afrique is now officially recognized as part of the Underground Railroad.
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