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Mary S. Peake Elementary School students visit Fort Monroe; interact with Governor

Approximately 30 fourth grade students from Mary S. Peake Elementary School had the opportunity to visit Fort Monroe to learn about the Arc of Freedom and our rich local history. Students also had the opportunity to interact with Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin. The Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow; Chief Diversity, Opportunity, and Inclusion Officer for the Governor’s Office Martin Brown; Executive Director of Fort Monroe Glen Oder; Fort Monroe Museum Educator Jess Meadows; Hampton City Schools Curriculum Leader for Social Studies Ashley Ide; and HCS Elementary Teacher Specialist Maggie Tsosie were also in attendance.

“We feel extremely fortunate to have this National Monument in our own backyard, and we appreciate the many educational opportunities Fort Monroe provides our HCS students of all ages,” shared Ide. “What a honor to not only be a part of the program but physically be present at the site where this history took place. Having students learn what the Arc of Freedom means, right here at Fort Monroe, is an experience like no other.”


Students were introduced to Fort Monroe beginning with a brief video of the seawall that provided students context of the physical place at which the first Africans arrived over 400 years ago. Students also participated in a discussion using a map and artifacts, describing the Kingdom of Ndongo (present day Angola), the culture, and the trades and skills the Africans brought with them. Discussions included a brief history of Fort Monroe during the Civil War. Other topics included the events leading to the Contraband Decision of 1861, the formation of the United States Colored Troops USCT – Federal Troops, and the story of John B. Jones.

Fourth grade students from Peake who were unable to be at the program in person, joined virtually along with other fourth grade students throughout the commonwealth.

Governor Youngkin wrapped up the presentation summarizing what was discussed.

“Our fourth graders are studying Virginia history. Exploring these important lessons today in the company of Virginia’s Governor is a unique experience that is sure to leave a lasting impression on our students,” said Ide.