The First NPS National Monument to Reconstruction is Established

Nick Sacco's picture

President Obama has designated three new national monuments dedicated to Civil War and Civil Rights history to be run by the National Park Service, including a national monument dedicated to Reconstruction in South Carolina. Here's an excerpt from the Department of the Interior's announcement on the new National Monuments:

"The Reconstruction Era began during the Civil War and lasted until the dawn of Jim Crow racial segregation in the 1890s. It remains one of the most complicated and poorly understood periods in American History. During Reconstruction, four million African Americans, newly freed from bondage, sought to integrate themselves into free society, into the educational, economic, and political life of the country. This began in late 1861 in Beaufort County, S.C., after Union forces won the Battle at Port Royal Sound and brought the ‘Lowcountry’ along the South Carolina coast under Union control. More than 10,000 slaves remained there when their owners fled the cotton and rice plantations. The then-Lincoln Administration decided to initiate the ‘Port Royal Experiment’ in Beaufort County to help the former slaves become self-sufficient.

The Reconstruction Era National Monument includes four sites in Beaufort County:

  • Darrah Hall and Brick Baptist Church, within Penn School National Historic Landmark District on St. Helena Island, that includes the site of one of the country’s first schools for freed slaves and a church built by slaves for their owners in 1855 and then turned over to the former slaves in 1862 when their owners left the area.
  • The Camp Saxton Site, on U.S. Navy property in Port Royal, where some of the first African Americans joined the U.S. Army, and the site where elaborate ceremonies were held on New Year’s Day 1863 to announce and celebrate the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation.
  • The Old Beaufort Firehouse, an historic building located in the midst of historic downtown Beaufort within walking distance of dozens more historic Reconstruction properties."

Much credit should be given to the many historians and history-lovers who worked tirelessly to accomplish this important goal, particularly Greg Downs, Kate Masur, and Eric Foner. 

Read the full article here