President Obama has named four Beaufort locations as a National Monument to the Reconstruction Era on Thursday. The administration made the announcement Thursday evening, which was the culmination of a strong local push (with petition) to have the President approve the monument before his term ends this month.
The monument includes the Old Firehouse in downtown Beaufort and Camp Saxton in Port Royal where the Emancipation Proclamation was read on New Year’s Day in 1863, as well as the Brick Baptist Church and Darrah Hall at Penn Center on St. Helena Island. The firehouse should serve as a visitors area directing folks to the other sites. Camp Saxton is now within the Naval Hospital complex.
Obama designated the Reconstruction Era National Monument along with the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument and the Freedom Riders National Monument in Alabama all as national sites in celebration of Monday’s upcoming Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“Building on the Administration’s commitment to protecting places that are culturally and historically significant and that reflect the story of all Americans, today’s designations will protect historic sites in Alabama and South Carolina that played an important role in American history stretching from the Civil War to the civil rights movement. The new Reconstruction Era National Monument encompasses four sites throughout Beaufort County that tell the vibrant story of the robust community developed by freed former African American slaves in the Reconstruction Era South. These sites establish the first unit of the National Park System focused on telling the story of Reconstruction,” the White House release stated.
Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) led the charge to have the Beaufort County sites recognized as a national monument.
“Reconstruction had some of its earliest and most significant impact in Beaufort County, South Carolina. For the last two decades, many communities in Beaufort County have worked to recognize and preserve their Reconstruction heritage. Today’s announcement is a great tribute to their years of work and sacrifice on this endeavor,” Clyburn said.
“Importantly, today’s announcement is not a final product, but a first step in protecting and preserving the many Reconstruction Era sites in Beaufort County. While sites like Mitchelville on Hilton Head Island, the first self-governed freedmen’s town, and the various sites associated with the life and career of the legendary Robert Smalls are not part of today’s announcement, I am committed to continue working to ensure that all of the deserving sites are given their due.”
“Protection for these sites is strongly supported by the local communities, elected officials, and a wide variety of stakeholders including civil rights organizations, environmental justice groups and historic preservation groups. Each designation was also supported by legislation introduced by members of the Alabama and South Carolina delegations,” the White House statement also said.