So far this year, the National Park Service has announced the addition of a total of 9 new sites to Reconstruction Era National Historic Network, and three of them are in Beaufort. This national network connects sites across the country who provide education, interpretation and research related to the period of Reconstruction. The Reconstruction Era (1861-1900) is one of the most fascinating and misunderstood periods in American History and includes stories of freedom, education and self-determination.
The new community sites in Beaufort SC that have been added to the network this year are located in downtown Beaufort:
- First African Baptist Church in Beaufort was dedicated on January 1, 1865 and served as a school for formerly enslaved people during the Civil War, and counted Congressman Robert Smalls among its members. It’s located at 601 New Street in downtown Beaufort.
- Tabernacle Baptist Church in Beaufort was home to a school during the Civil War and held an Emancipation Day service on January 1, 1863. Its members served as community leaders in Reconstruction era Beaufort, and today is the final resting place of Congressman Robert Smalls. It’s located at 901 Craven Street in downtown Beaufort.
- The Robert Smalls House in Beaufort is the property that Robert Smalls purchased in the 1863 Direct Tax Auctions in Beaufort after Smalls returned fro the Civil War and was his home for the rest of life. It’s located at 511 Prince Street in downtown Beaufort.
- Redcliffe Plantation State Historic Site in Aiken County, SC interprets the lives of the black and white families who shaped the cultural history and landscape of this plantation from 1855 through Reconstruction and up to 1975. Educational programs guide the public through the extant slave quarters and mansion on site, home to South Carolina governor James Henry Hammond in 1859.
- The DC Legacy Project: Barry Farm-Hillsdale in southeast Washington, DC is transforming five historically landmarked buildings at Barry Farm Dwellings into a commemoration of the history of the land from its founding as a Freedmen’s town in 1868 by the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands through to its time as a segregated public housing complex. Interpretive programs are planned to tell the story of the Black landowning community that formed during Reconstruction. This site is not open to the public.
- Randolph Cemetery in Columbia, SC is an African American cemetery listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its concentration of Black community leader burials, including many Reconstruction Era African American Senators and Congressmen. Established in 1872, it is named in honor of African American Senator Benjamin Franklin Randolph, who was assassinated in 1868 for his promotion of voting rights, public education and integrated schools while on the campaign trail for the Republican party.
- The town of Lincolnville in Charleston County, SC is a freedmen’s town founded in 1867 by seven African American men who purchased 620 acres to create a community of homes, churches, and schools for African American people, primarily of Gullah Geechee heritage who had migrated from the Sea Islands. Descendants of the original settlers still thrive here today amongst original structures, cemeteries and live oak trees, actively preserving their rich Gullah Geechee heritage and celebrating their ancestors’ ability to overcome adversity during Reconstruction to found Lincolnville.
- The Schofield Normal and Industrial School in Aiken, SC was founded in 1871 by Martha Schofield, a Pennsylvania Quaker, to educate freed slaves. A center for black education in South Carolina, it trained teachers who taught throughout the rural areas of the state, served as a public high school for black students during segregation and is now a public middle school. The original bell tower on the Sumter Street campus still stands and is accompanied by a historical marker.
- Historic Brattonsville in York County SC, Historic Brattonsville interprets the lives of formerly enslaved people living and working on this 800-acre historic plantation site in the years after the Civil War.
“The Reconstruction Era is an important part of our national story,” said Superintendent Scott Teodorski, “These new sites join a wide range of sites from across the country that provide opportunities to learn about this critical period in our history. We are pleased to welcome these new sites to the network and to work with them to showcase their stories.”
The John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, signed into law on March 12, 2019, outlined the creation of the Reconstruction Era National Historic Network. This network, managed by Reconstruction Era National Historical Park, includes sites and programs that are affiliated with the Reconstruction Era, but not necessarily managed by the National Park Service. This network is nationwide and works to provide opportunities for visitors to connect to the stories of Reconstruction. For more information about the Reconstruction Era National Historic Network, visit https://www.nps.gov/subjects/reconstruction/network.htm.