Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Henry Louis Gates Jr. is back in Beaufort this week focusing on its Reconstruction-era history.
Beaufort County was part of his landmark six-hour series on PBS in 2013, "The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross with Henry Louis Gates Jr."
The current filming is for a shorter series expected to be aired on PBS, locals said, though that has not been announced.
The new project is believed to delve deeper into Beaufort County's unique role in American history, which was recognized in 2017 by the creation of the Reconstruction Era National Monument in the county by President Barack Obama and the National Park Service.
Filming could include several sites included in the National Monument: 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.
On Tuesday morning, Gates was at the old firehouse interviewing Columbia University historian Eric Foner, considered the nation's preeminent historian on the Reconstruction era. His leading books on the topic are "Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877" and the 352-page "Short History of Reconstruction."
Foner has been linked to a formal national recognition of the Reconstruction era since it was suggested almost 20 years ago by then-Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt. In his research for Babbitt, Foner concluded Beaufort County is the best place in America to tell that story. In recent years, Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling and others pushed for the national recognition and are now working on fleshing it out as a cultural and economic pillar for the county.
Gates' filming in Beaufort could also include sites linked to Robert Smalls, a Civil War hero and five-term congressman who was born into slavery in Beaufort.
Gates is a Harvard University professor who has become a familiar face to Americans, largely through his "Finding Your Roots" genealogy series on PBS.
And he hosted the "Many Rivers to Cross" series, in addition to writing it and serving as its executive producer. It earned the Emmy Award for Outstanding Historical Program — Long Form, as well as the Peabody Award, Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, and NAACP Image Award.
David Lauderdale: 843-706-8115, @ThatsLauderdale