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