When I moved to Beaufort and learned about the history of the area, especially events surrounding the Civil War and Reconstruction, I realized that Beaufort’s unique story should be told widely. That can be accomplished through the proposed National Reconstruction Monument. Here is why I support this endeavor.
First, the U.S. has never fully come to terms with slavery, the consequences of the Civil War, and Reconstruction. The German people have confronted their Nazi past and kept the subject alive in schools and public culture as a way to assure that the atrocities are never repeated. Americans in general have not truly confronted the iniquity of slavery and as a result many can abdicate responsibility through a form of cultural amnesia.
Second, Beaufort’s experience with Reconstruction was unique because of its circumstances during the Civil War. Yet reflected within Beaufort’s post-Civil War history are all the elements of Reconstruction across the South, including Jim Crow laws that created the models for the continuous struggle for civil rights during the 20th and 21st centuries.
Third, Beaufort’s short-lived, yet successful, “fusion politics” blended African-American and white leadership and was a model of what American politics could have been and still can be.
Finally, it would bring attention to the importance of people like Robert Smalls whose recognition in American history books, unfortunately, is negligible, most likely because he was forgotten like so many other African American heroes.
This Monument will fill a gaping hole in our understanding of who we are as a nation.