President Barack Obama will sign a proclamation this afternoon that will designate Virginia’s Fort Monroe as a National Monument.
The military fort is a reminder of the Civil War and America’s history of slavery — it was the place where Dutch slave traders brought Africans in 1619. During the war, escaped slaves used Fort Monroe as a place of shelter.
And in 1861, it was where General Benjamin Butler issued his “Contraband Decision,” a precursor to Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
President Obama’s announcement isn’t just for historical purposes. The White House hopes that the reconstruction of Fort Monroe’s grounds will create almost 3,000 jobs in the Tidewater area.
A 2006 study by the National Parks and Conservation Association found that each federal dollar invested in national parks generates at least four dollars of economic value to the country.
“Fort Monroe has played a part in some of the darkest and some of the most heroic moments in American history. But today isn’t just about preserving a national landmark — it’s about helping to create jobs and grow the local economy,” President Obama said. “Steps like these won’t replace the bold action we need from Congress to get our economy moving and strengthen middle-class families, but they will make a difference.”
The President’s biggest challenge before the 2012 election is boosting the national economy. His administration devised a plan to put Americans back to work through weekly executive orders that do not rely on approval from Congress. Recent measures included changes to student loan rates and prescription drug pricing.