Reconstruction Era Monument gets closer, celebration planned

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Penn Center on St. Helena Island is one of four Beaufort locations named as a National Monument to the Reconstruction Era.

Beaufort is getting closer to having the multi-site Reconstruction Era Monument established by the National Park Service.

“Through weekly calls between the local parties and National Park Service representatives, we are making progress at establishing the monument,” Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling said in an announcement on Tuesday.

On January 12th, then-President Barak Obama named four Beaufort locations as a National Monument to the Reconstruction Era as one of his last acts as President. 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 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 January White House press release stated.

“Congressman Clyburn, the team who worked with him locally and the National Park Service are working on a date for a grand celebration likely in mid to late March,” Keyserling’s announcement said.

That celebration is likely to be hosted at Penn Center on St. Helena Island.

The proclamation was the successful culmination of a strong local push (with petition) to have the President approve the monument before his term ended. 

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The National Park Service website tells the Reconstruction story and highlights; “one place that embodies the themes of Reconstruction with special merit is Beaufort County, South Carolina. The significant historical events that transpired here make it an ideal place to tell critical national, regional and local stories of experimentation, potential transformation, accomplishment, and disappointment. In the Beaufort region, including the City of Beaufort, the town of Port Royal, and Saint Helena Island, many existing historic sites demonstrate the transformative effect of emancipation and Reconstruction.”

“It will be quite a celebration,” Keyserling added.

We’re looking forward to it.

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