Local News

Hatteras Island harbors untold story of runaway slave village

Posted July 31, 2013

— 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.

Hotel De Afrique Slaves took first step to freedom at Hatteras Island

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."

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  • batcave Aug 1, 2013

    Democrats were the conservatives of the day.

    Wrong. southern dems considered northern republicans old school consevatives before the war, trying to push their morality.

  • michaelclay Aug 1, 2013

    Democrats were the conservatives of the day. Democrats back then believed in States rights and wanted state law to trump Federal, while Republicans wanted the opposite. Even Lincoln is considered a Liberal by nearly all history scholars. Party platforms switch over time. Bill Brasky

    You are 100% correct. Thank you

  • Bill Brasky Aug 1, 2013

    "When the same party that has been running the state for the last 200 years are the same people that ran the slave trade of course you wont hear about things like this."

    Democrats were the conservatives of the day. Democrats back then believed in States rights and wanted state law to trump Federal, while Republicans wanted the opposite. Even Lincoln is considered a Liberal by nearly all history scholars. Party platforms switch over time.

  • Bill Brasky Aug 1, 2013

    "If this place was under Union army control, how could it be considered hostile territory with the need for the underground railroad for runaway slaves?"

    Slaves fled their farms and this island was a place for freedom, or an easier alternative than fleeing all the way north. It should be considered part of the underground railroad.

  • Classified Aug 1, 2013

    “Around midnight the men from Company C broke into the Hotel De Afrique an attacked the DEFENSELESS OCCUPANTS (former slaves) with knives and bayonets. NOw you know the rest of the story.” mrr03

    And with many union soldiers hailing from the south it is thoroughly conceivable that scenes like this were repeated throughout the war.

  • Bill Brasky Aug 1, 2013

    "Don't forget whose money it was that built this country."

    And don't forget who's slave labor helped build the South.

  • mrr03 Aug 1, 2013

    Unfortunately, the whole story here is not being told..THE REST OF THE STORY IS THIS " Not all Union soldiers thought so highly of the former slaves. With orders to bivouac on the beach, they began to drink into the night. Soon fighting broke out, and the officers were unable to control the men (probably untrue). Around midnight the men from Company C broke into the Hotel De Afrique an attacked the DEFENSELESS OCCUPANTS (former slaves) with knives and bayonets. NOw you know the rest of the story.

  • bowens44 Aug 1, 2013

    "When the same party that has been running the state for the last 200 years are the same people that ran the slave trade of course you wont hear about things like this. Of course lets ignore that the slave trade was mostly for Mexico and other South American countries as well and the conditions there worse than any eastern prison you can find today. It makes you wonder why all these so called "minority groups" still follow their masters"

    A stunning level of ignorance with a tinge of racism.

  • batcave Aug 1, 2013

    People on Hatteras were issued guns and fought for the North, I have seen the GO that approved it.This is not a surprise.

  • NCJoe Aug 1, 2013

    athiestswillrule, The bricks of the North Carolina Governors mansion were handmade by prisoners, not slaves. Building began in 1883, several years after slavery had been abolished.

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