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    The Civil War

Civil War to Civil Rights

Bells Across the Land

Bells Across The Land

Join the National Park Service in Ringing "Bells across the Land: A Nation Remembers Appomattox"

Thanks to all who have already confirmed participation in this event. The response has been remarkable. Bells will indeed be ringing across the land! We've added more resources including live streaming, distance learning, and program ideas for participating parks, so read on and see what's new.


Bells Across the Land

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Join national parks and communities across the country in commemorating the 150th anniversary of Appomattox Court House. Bells will reverberate throughout the land as the country marks the symbolic end of the Civil War, and the pivotal beginning of freedom and civil rights.

For your convenience, here's a flyer with which you can promote your bell ringing event. Click here for more information.

If you're just learning about it now, feel free to join in the excitement.

For the past four years, the National Park Service and many other organizations and individuals have been commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War and the ongoing efforts for civil rights today.

On April 9, 1865, Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant met Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee to set the terms of surrender of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. In conjunction with a major event at Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, the National Park Service and its partners invite communities across the nation to join in this commemoration. The bells will ring first at Appomattox at 3:00 p.m. on April 9, 2015. The ringing will coincide with the moment the historic meeting between Grant and Lee in the McLean House at Appomattox Court House ended. While Lee's surrender did not end the Civil War, the act is seen by most Americans as the symbolic end of four years of bloodshed.

After the ringing at Appomattox, bells will reverberate across the country. Bells will ring from Independence Hall in Philadelphia, from the Old North Church in Boston, from the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, from Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, and from battlefields, national park sites, national cemeteries, state capitols, county court houses, town halls, historical sites, universities, schools, homes, churches, temples, and mosques around the nation. Individuals will also be joining in by ringing hand bells and cellphone bells.

Please join us in ringing bells precisely at 3:15 pm EDT for four minutes (each minute symbolic of a year of war). For those in other time zones, please adjust accordingly so bells are ringing across the land at precisely the same time. If you have access to any such organizations, please encourage them to participate.

Join us virtually during your local events! The bell-ringing at Appomattox will be streamed live online at 3:00pm EDT. The live stream is provided by MAGPI and the University of Pennsylvania. Click here for more information.

Distance learning opportunities for students grades 5 –8 will also be streamed online and through distance learning programs. The program, entitled "A New Birth of Freedom" will explore the significance of the surrender at Appomattox Court House and the rise of the Civil Rights movement from this momentous event. The same program will be held twice, once at 9:45 am EDT and again at 2:30 pm EDT. The latter program concludes with the bell-ringing event. Click here for more information.

A Teachers' Resource Packet provides curriculum materials for schools interested in participating. Click here for more information.

Parks interested in providing programming associated with this event can find materials in the Park Resource Packet. Click here for more information.

The end of the Civil War has different meanings to different people. Each organization may customize this idea to its own satisfaction. We ask participants to ring bells across the nation as a gesture to mark the end of the bloody conflict in which more than 750,000 Americans perished. Some communities may ring their bells in celebration of freedom or a restored Union, others an expression of mourning and a moment of silence for the fallen. Sites may ring bells to mark the beginning of reconciliation and reconstruction, or as the next step in the continuing struggle for civil rights.

Make sure to share your story and help us write history!

Hashtag: Share how you observed the event with #BellsAcrosstheLand2015.

Stories will be compiled in one place to see how each one helps build our national story. Visit our Storify page for more information.

Please join us in the historic commemoration. Let bells ring across the land!

General Information: Carol Shively e-mail us
Educational Materials for Schools: Amy Bracewell e-mail us

Photo of African American man drinking from water fountain marked 'Colored.'

Though the Civil War began the movement to extend equality to African Americans, the promises of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments provide easier to accomplish in theory rather than in practice. The promising start towards racial equality soon faltered during the tensions of Reconstruction and laws were soon enacted across the country which enforced segregation of the races and the second-class status of African Americans.

Today, nearly 150 years since the end of the Civil War, people of all races, colors, creeds and beliefs continue the struggle to make America a nation where truly "all men are created equal."

Showing results 11-15 of 16

  • Reconstruction

    Picture depictsing former slaves and free blacks voting following the passage of the 15th amendment

    During Reconstruction, the Federal government pursued a program of political, social, and economic restructuring across the South-including an attempt to accord legal equality and political power to former slaves. Reconstruction became a struggle over the meaning of freedom, with former slaves, former slaveholders and Northerners adopting divergent definitions. Faced with increasing opposition by white Southerners and some Northerners, however, the government abandoned efforts for black equality in favor of sectional reconciliation between whites. Read more

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    Robert Small's Journey to Freedom


    In Civil War Charleston, slave Robert Smalls commandeered a Confederate vessel, piloting it to freedom and embarking on a journey that ultimately led him to the halls of Congress. Read more

  • Series: Born of Earnest Struggle

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    When the Civil War began in 1861, President Abraham Lincoln's primary concern was saving the Union and preventing the fracturing of the nation. After the failure of the Peninsula Campaign in the summer of 1862, Union morale was low. The northern economy was shaky, optimism for victory had faded, and Lincoln's Cabinet feared growing Confederate strength would encourage foreign intervention. Lincoln began to see freeing the slaves, not as a constitutional dilemma or a moral choice, but as a way of Read more

  • Antietam National Battlefield

    The Emancipation Proclamation

    A recruiting poster showing a Union soldier and a banner

    Toward the end of the Civil War's second year, Abraham Lincoln made added the abolition of slavery to the restoration of the Union as the principal war aims of the North along by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation to free slaves in the South and strike a blow to the Confederate economy. Read more

  • Fort Davis National Historic Site

    The First African American Graduate of West Point

    In 1877 Henry O. Flipper became the first African American to ever graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point. However, his image was soured by events four years later when he was dismissed from the Army, and for 117 years his court martial tarnished his good name. Read more

Tags: Civil War, Civil Rights