Beaufort News

Small, historic Beaufort church seeks help raising big bucks for hero’s monument

“Two of the most daring-feats (by two African-Americans) during the Civil War” will soon be honored on the grounds of Beaufort’s Tabernacle Baptist Church, the Rev. Kenneth Hodges said Tuesday.

Hodges made the announcement as he prepared for the public unveiling of a scale version of the Harriet Tubman Monument.

One of the two honorees is already memorialized on church grounds. A bust of Robert Smalls — who was born into slavery in Beaufort, stole and delivered a Confederate ship to Union forces, and served several terms in Congress — sits just feet away from his gravestone.

The second is a work in progress. The monument to Harriet Tubman will honor the famed abolitionist who helped more than 700 slaves escape to freedom during an 1863 operation along the Combahee River. The bronze and granite memorial to Tubman will be 14 feet tall, with Tubman standing 7 feet tall atop the statue’s base.

The project will cost about $500,000, but Hodges was quick to point out that includes everything — production, shipping, contractors, landscaping and site design.

“At this particular moment in time with funds and commitments now, we’re only at about 20 percent (of our goal), but I think we are on target to what we had anticipated.”

While neither memorial will officially be a part of the Reconstruction Era National Monument planned by the National Park Service, Hodges did announce that Robert Smalls’ gravesite was formally accepted by the parks service last month as part of the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program.

“I think Harriet and Robert Smalls will complement each other in this area,” Hodges said.

Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling said residents shouldn’t be discouraged when other historical sites aren’t listed as part of the Reconstruction monument.

“This and others (historical sites) will be a five-minute walk” that will be noted at the planned Reconstruction museum.

Danita Brown, the park service’s acting superintendent for the Reconstruction Era National Monument, agreed.

“Beaufort County has the most important sites of American history,” she said.

Beaufort was spotlighted recently when John Oliver, during HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” called the city out during a monologue on the Confederacy, suggesting the city pay tribute to Smalls.

When Hodges was asked if donations would be sought from HBO or Oliver himself, he said, “We certainly will be reaching out to a larger audience on a national level. We know there are individuals, if they had the will and a desire, they could write a check for the full amount today.”

Drew Martin: 843-706-8132