Reconstruction National Monument Dedication in the Gullah/Geechee Nation
Reconstruction Era National Monument Celebration Set for March 18
The US National Park Service and local partners will host a community celebration 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.
The Reconstruction era began during the US 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 people of African descent 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. More than 10,000 enslaved Africans 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 formerly enslaved become self-sufficient.
The 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.
The Reconstruction Era National Monument is composed of the following historic buildings and landscapes:
Darrah Hall and Brick Baptist Church within Penn School National Historic Landmark District on St. Helena Island
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 in historic downtown Beaufort.
Penn Center is the only site accessible to the public.