There is a tendency when thinking of the Outer Banks to view them as a once and only tourist destination. And why not? The setting is beautiful, the beach is wonderful and it would be hard to imagine a better place for a vacation getaway.
Yet the history of the Outer Banks is filled with marvelous twists and turns that have had a direct impact on story of the United States.
One of those tales is the story of the FreedmenâåÛåªs Colony on Roanoke Island. A settlement created to help freed slaves adjust to a life of freedom, at itâåÛåªs height its population was estimated to be 3900.
When General Ambrose Burnside took Roanoke Island back from the Confederate forces in February of 1862, there were a number of slaves included in the rebel forces who had been conscripted to build fortifications and carry supplies. The general took what was considered at the time a somewhat radical approach to the problem of the slaves in his custody: he declared them contraband of war.
If the slaves were contraband of war, they were no longer property of their owners and were therefore free. Word spread among the slaves still in captivity and in spite of danger and hardship, they began arriving at Roanoke Island by the 100s.
The FreedmanâåÛåªs Colony was established in May of 1863 and was disbanded in 1867. More information about the colony is available at the FreedmenâåÛåªs Colony website or at the Fort Raleigh National Historic Monument.