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Casemate Museum Historian’s Dismissal Being Challenged
By Nancy E. Sheppard

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FORT MONROE – Casemate Museum historian, W. Robert Kelly, has been dismissed from his position less than two months before the opening of his passion project: a museum dedicated to telling the narrative history of African-Americans at Fort Monroe. But the reason for his dismissal is left mired in controversy.

Mr. Kelly, who has been with Fort Monroe Authority (FMA) since 2014, has been applauded by fellow historians, museums, newspapers, military authorities, and preservationists for his passionate advocacy and perpetuation of invaluable contribution of African-Americans to Fort Monroe and to our nation.

Originally, the FMA dispersed an internal memo that stated that Mr. Kelly left on May 24, 2019 of his own volition to pursue other opportunities. When Mr. Kelly’s colleagues pressed regarding his abrupt departure, Chairman of the FMA Board of Trustees, James P. Moran, stated that Mr. Kelly allegedly violated policies as is laid out in the employee handbook and that they board had no choice but to dismiss him. The FMA maintains an "At-Will” policy, meaning that employees can be terminated at any time, with or without cause.

The FMA Board of Trustees did not return correspondence for comment for this article.

Kelly maintains that he was unfairly terminated and has retained legal representation. Due to legal concerns, he did not disclose the exact reasoning FMA gave for his termination. However, this has caught the attention of colleagues both at the Casemate Museum and outside.

An email from a group calling themselves "Preservation Matters!” was sent to almost every museum in the Commonwealth of Virginia and was obtained by Yorktown Crier-Poquoson Post from an anonymous tipster. The email lays out confusion over Mr. Kelly’s abrupt termination without cause given to the public. The email goes on to express concern over the protection and continuation of Mr. Kelly’s research upon the approach of the 400th anniversary of when enslaved Africans first arrived in the New World. "Preservation Matters!” urged the recipients to reach out to governmental leaders to demand answers for why Mr. Kelly was dismissed. While the group has not disclosed their identity, they have exclusively told us that they are also concerned because, allegedly, Mr. Kelly’s supervisor, Robin Reed, was not consulted before the decision was made to terminate him.

In the meantime, Mr. Kelly’s name remains listed as the historian of the Casemate Museum on the FMA’s website.


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