A monument at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site honors the Freedmen's Colony, a lesser known but truly fascinating aspect of Roanoke Island's history. Loosely established in 1862 and formally established on May 14, 1863, the Freedmen's Colony was part of the Underground Railroad and a place of safety for approximately 3,500 former slaves from all over the region, including men, women and children. The slaves risked punishment, family separation and even their lives to reach the colony on Roanoke Island. The colony was the first of its kind in North Carolina, providing residents with land to farm, schools, churches and jobs. It was a tremendous first step on the journey toward freedom for many slaves and was called "First Light of Freedom," which are the words on the monument. The Freedmen's Colony closed in 1867, but many of the descendants still reside on the island today. You'll find the monument at the Fort Raleigh Visitor Center.
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