Hatteras Island harbors untold story of runaway slave village
Posted July 31, 2013
HATTERAS, N.C. — A site on the Outer Banks is being added to the National Park Service's Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.
A monument was dedicated Wednesday at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras to the Hotel De Afrique. The site is considered the first safe haven for runaway slaves in North Carolina.
"It's an untold story. Afro-American history is rare in this area," said National Park Service historian Doug Stover. "Today, it's unfortunately underwater."
After Union troops captured Confederate forts on the island in 1861, dozens of slaves fled there. In return for food and shelter, they helped federal forces load ships and build fortifications.
The freed slaves stayed in as many as 12 wooden buildings, one of them called the Hotel De Afrique.
The network includes sites important to the underground railway which was the system of safe houses used by slaves escaping north.
Dare County Commissioner Virginia Tillett can trace her roots back to the village.
"What many people don't realize is this county was developed by many of my ancestors," Tillett said. "I'm getting older, so we are encouraging young people to pick up the mantle and keep it going."