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Contact: Saudia Muwakkil, 404-507-5612
Contact: David Bryant, 404-507-5615
BEAUFORT, SC – The National Park Service and local partners will this month host a community celebration in Beaufort County marking the recent establishment of Reconstruction Era National Monument.
The dedication event — organized by Beaufort County, Brick Baptist Church, the City of Beaufort, National Park Service, Penn Center, the Town of Port Royal, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, and the U.S. Navy — will take place from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm Saturday, March 18, 2017 at St. Helena Island’s Penn Center. The event is free and open to the public. More details are forthcoming.
Reconstruction Era National Monument was established as a unit of the National Park Service by Presidential Proclamation on January 12, 2017 in recognition of the role Beaufort County, South Carolina played in shaping the historic period of Reconstruction. The national monument protects and interprets historic buildings and landscapes in three areas within Beaufort County, including the City of Beaufort, St. Helena Island, and the Camp Saxton Site in Port Royal. Visitors may find information about local Reconstruction sites at:
Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center located at 713 Craven St., Beaufort, South Carolina 29902. Hours: Monday - Saturday, 9 am to 5 pm; and
Penn Center, Inc., Welcome Center located at 16 Penn Center Circle, St. Helena Island, South Carolina, 29920. Hours: Tuesday - Saturday, 9 am to 4 pm.
Stan Austin, National Park Service Regional Director: “We look forward to dedicating the new Reconstruction Era National Monument with our partners and the Beaufort County communities who were central to the park’s establishment. The park interprets a critical period in American history not fully understood and credited for its national significance.”
Billy Keyserling, City of Beaufort Mayor: “The establishment of the Reconstruction Era National Monument is enormously important to our city, county, region, and nation. National recognition of this period in the development of the United States unlocks some treasures of our hidden history, giving students, scholars, and the general public opportunities to better understand our past as we create our future.”
Dr. Rodell Lawrence, Penn Center, Inc. Executive Director: “Penn Center is excited to host the national monument kick-off event on its historic grounds. The interpretation of the Reconstruction era is a major milestone in the legacy of Penn Center and our nation.”
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 and into the educational, economic, and political life of the country. This began in November 1861 in Beaufort County, South Carolina, 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 lucrative 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 is composed of historic buildings and landscapes located in three areas of Beaufort County:
Darrah Hall and Brick Baptist Church within Penn School National Historic Landmark District on St. Helena Island, the site of one of the country’s first schools for freed slaves and a church built by slaves in 1855 and then turned over to the former slaves in 1862;
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 enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation; and
The Old Beaufort Firehouse, an historic building located in the midst of historic downtown Beaufort within walking distance of dozens of other historic Reconstruction properties.
The Old Beaufort Firehouse, Darrah Hall, and the Camp Saxton Site are not yet accessible to the public. Brick Baptist Church is privately owned and supports an active congregation.
As the National Park Service and community partners develop future opportunities to experience and learn about Reconstruction Era National Monument, information and updates will be posted on the park’s official website www.nps.gov/reer and social media accounts https://www.facebook.com/Recon
Last updated: January 8, 2018