So it begins: Getting to know Fort Raleigh

So it begins: Getting to know Fort Raleigh

After many months of preparation, uncertainty, and filling out various forms and documents, I have finally arrived at the park I will be working at during the summer: Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. Fort Raleigh has three main stories that took place mostly on park grounds and are key to the development of Roanoke Island. These are the key historical events that our visitors can learn about through various resources, including interpretation programs offered by the staff members.

The first story takes us back to the 80s, but of the sixteenth century. It is about the Lost Colony on Roanoke Island and how the first attempt at English settlement in America ended in tragedy and mystery. This unsolved puzzle has intrigued visitors long before the park’s foundation, which can be verified by the Virginia Dare monument erected in 1896. However, it is still our main attraction and by far our most investigated topic.


Virginia Dare Memorial in 1896 with members of the Roanoke Colony Memorial Association


A few centuries later, specifically during the Civil War, the Freedmen’s Colony of Roanoke Island was founded in 1862 following its capture by the Union army. The Freedmen’s Colony was essentially a community of former enslaved people who had gained their emancipation and offered an area to develop and settle. This territory served as a safe haven for those who had just recently escaped slavery. In more recent years, the focus of the park has been to shine more light on the Freedmen’s Colony. 


Freedmen’s School, James Plantation, North Carolina, c. 1866


Lastly, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site interprets and shares the story of Reginald Fessenden, the “Father of Voice Radio”, who conducted his experiments on Roanoke Island between 1901 and 1902. In March of 1902, the Canadian-born scientist transmitted and received human voice with the devices he created, sending a voice message from a transmitter tower at Cape Hatteras to a receiving tower on Roanoke Island. This is, by far, the park’s most unknown story.

For all the visitors, there is still much to learn and much to do at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. The stories we might know are nothing if we do not make them our own, not by changing the facts, but by understanding the impact they have in the present and how we can learn from them. Every day at Fort Raleigh we strive to innovate our interpretation methods to make it more accessible and understandable to the public. Because at the end of the day, they wouldn’t be here without these events, just as we wouldn’t be here without the public.


  • Gerardo Javariz
    Posted at 14:21h, 30 May

    “Definitely, if we don’t learn from history, we can repeat the same mistakes. Thanks to young people like you, we have access to these stories. Congratulations and much success in your summer work.”

  • Javariz Gerardo
    Posted at 04:44h, 31 May

    Thanks to young people like you, we have access to these stories. Congratulations and much success in your summer work.”

  • Diana Ruiz
    Posted at 06:26h, 31 May

    An interesting and well told article. It awakens the desire to visit the park and its stories.

  • Diana Ruiz
    Posted at 13:46h, 01 June

    Its and interesting and well told story. It awaken my interest in visiting the park and learn more about the history. I congratulate the writer.

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