Toward Freedom Traveling Exhibit

Toward Freedom: Hampton and the Contraband 

Toward Freedom 1This exhibit tells the story of the men, women, and children who escaped slavery to seek the possibility of freedom at Fort Monroe. It explores critical questions surrounding slavery and the individuals who changed the world by their actions just one month into the American Civil War. 

On May 25, 1861, three young men, Shepard Mallory, Frank Baker, and James Townsend, escaped to union-held Fort Monroe near Hampton and petitioned for their freedom. In response to their actions, Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Butler, the commander of Union forces in the area, proclaimed them “Contraband of War.” Word spread and enslaved people brought their families and gathered by the thousands at Fort Monroe, known by the Contrabands as “Freedom’s Fort.”  The exhibit looks at the lives of these of people who came to Hampton, and who in many ways became political activists by moving toward freedom and taking brave action in the midst of war.