A rainy day couldn’t keep the crowd away from celebrating the one-year anniversary of the Reconstruction Era National Monument in Beaufort.
The Reconstruction Era National Monument was established on Jan. 12, 2017, by former President Barak Obama and includes several sites in Beaufort County, including Darrah Hall on the campus of Penn Center, Brick Baptist Church, Camp Saxton and the Emancipation Oak on the site of the current Naval Hospital Beaufort in Port Royal and a former Beaufort firehouse.
“So many really great things happened here, and it’s great that they are finally being recognized,” Michael Moore, great-great-grandson of Robert Smalls said about the monument. “With all of the talk about what to do with Confederate monuments and the strong argument to not take anything down, but to raise more monuments to balance the history, people like Robert Smalls are being recognized more and talked about more.”
Robert Smalls, born a slave in Beaufort in 1839, was known for his career and political achievements after gaining his freedom.
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During the event, several local groups performed musical selections and U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., along with representatives from the National Park Service, spoke about the significance of the monument.
“This is a monument to racial reconciliation and to healing in our country, and ultimately to this larger notion of what liberty is all about, which is an equal branch of liberty for all,” Sanford said about the monument.
The highlight of the ceremony was the unveiling of a painting by local artist Sonja Griffin Evans that will be displayed at the Old Beaufort Firehouse in Downtown Beaufort.
Funding for the monument, which is still in the developmental stage, is still in the process of being secured, said Danita Brown, acting superintendent for the Reconstruction era with the National Parks Service.
Once Congress passes a budget for the monument and funding is in place, then they can begin moving forward with planning documents and hiring a superintendent and staff for the monument.
Until that time, there is no real time line for when the monument will be ready for the public, but according to Brown, that process can be lengthy.