Supporters of a national monument to the Reconstruction Era in northern Beaufort County are urging key federal officials to visit soon.
In his weekly newsletter this week, Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling said he hopes U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn will bring National Park Service director Jonathan Jarvis and senior Department of Interior officials to Beaufort County to visit the places that would be a part of the potential monument. The monument could cover multiple sites, including Penn Center, the Port Royal site where the Emancipation Proclamation was read in 1863 and where the Army’s first black regiment was based during the Civil War, and the Beaufort home of Civil War hero and congressman Robert Smalls.
“I believe we are getting close to a response from the National Park Service about the Reconstruction Era Monument and am asking for some help before the decision is made.,” Keyserling wrote in his newsletter Tuesday.
Keyserling asked supporters to sign an online petition to President Barack Obama and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell at change.org. He also included a form letter for Jewell that should be sent to Keyserling at email@example.com:
“Dear Secretary Jewell:
As an American I believe the Reconstruction Era Monument in Beaufort is important to our community and to the Nation. We salute the Department of the Interior for establishing 30 Civil War Monuments, yet not one has been established to remember Reconstruction. Please do all within your authority to recommend the creation of a multi-site Reconstruction Era Monument in Beaufort, SC between now and the end of your Administration.
More than 1,200 people had signed the petition as of Tuesday.
Time is growing short to execute the supporters’ plan to have Obama create the monument with an executive order via the Antiquities Act. The potential monument would otherwise be in the hands of federal lawmakers or President-elect Donald Trump’s incoming administration.
At a forum in October featuring a panel of Beaufort, Port Royal and county leaders, the National Park Service’s Michael Allen said now is the time and Beaufort is the place for such a monument.
“I’m standing here to encourage you to work together as a group to make this happen,” Allen said. “I know it can.”