• 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."

Showing results 6-10 of 16

  • Gulf Islands National Seashore

    Exceeding Expectations

    Photo of African American soldier

    During the fight for freedom, African American soldiers were forced to deal with discrimination on a regular basis. For no other reason than possessing a different skin color, these men were perceived to be inferior troops. Yet over several fierce fights, men such as the Louisiana Native Guard proved their worth. Read more

  • It Has To Start Somewhere

    Photograph of President Lincoln

    The emancipation of slaves in the United States was not an overnight decision, but a decision that needed to be structured in order to help win the war for the Union. Read more

  • Civil War Defenses of Washington

    Living Contraband - Former Slaves in the Nation's Capital During the Civil War

    Photo of three African American boys in a Union army camp

    For thousands of African Americans during the Civil War, Washington, D.C. was a beacon of freedom - and a place where they could work to assist the war effort. There they found themselves digging fortifications, driving wagons, or cooking, but as free men and women selling their services, many for the first time in their lives. Read more

  • Maggie L Walker National Historic Site

    Maggie L. Walker

    Portrait of Maggie L. Walker

    Maggie L. Walker led the African American community of Richmond, Virginia, in many aspects. She was involved in the struggle for civil rights and maintained her successful banking and newspaper businesses and charitable societies. Read more

  • Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

    Niagara Movement - Cornerstone of the Modern Civil Rights Movement

    Photo of Niagara Movement members, including W.E.B. DuBois (seated), at Niagara Conference in Harpers Ferry

    To combat the injustices of Jim Crow laws and legal segregation, W.E.B. Du Bois and other leading civil rights advocates created the Niagara Movement and held their first public meeting at Storer College in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, invoking the spirit of John Brown. Read more

Tags: Civil War, Civil Rights