• Photo of cannon at Antietam National Battlefield

    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"

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 continuing efforts for human 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. Churches, temples, schools, city halls, public buildings, historic sites, and others are invited to ring bells precisely at 3:15 pm for four minutes (each minute symbolic of a year of war). If you have access to any such organizations, please encourage them to participate.

The beginning of reconciliation and reconstruction, or as the next step in the continuing struggle for civil rights. Curriculum materials are available for schools interested in participating. Click here for more information.

Share your story and help us write history!

Schools, parks, and communities from all over the country will be participating in this event. Share how you observed it with #BellsAcrosstheLand2015. Stories will be compiled in one place to see how each one helps build our national story.

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


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."

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  • Series: Born of Earnest Struggle

    Photograph of unnamed Union African American troops

    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

Tags: Civil War, Civil Rights