First National Monument to Reconstruction Will Become a Reality

On January 12, 2017, President Obama signed an executive order designating five sites near Beaufort, South Carolina, as a National Parks Service monument. This will be the first NPS site to commemorate Reconstruction, and it comes after many years of work. Throughout his presidency, Obama has supported the creation of a more inclusive National Parks system, and Civil War historians have lent their expertise and guidance throughout this process.[1]

This site’s significance cannot be overstated. Public memory of Reconstruction is often fraught with inaccuracies and biases, and a historic site that draws on federal resources has the potential to help all Americans learn more about this pivotal—yet understudied—period of our history. As Kate Masur has noted, “the new Reconstruction Era National Monument can help Americans grapple with difficult aspects of the nation’s history, including slavery, emancipation, racism, and violence.” Greg Downs concurs, stating that this is “a long overdue moment, and one of the most significant expansions of the National Park Service since its founding.”[2]

Please join us in celebrating this groundbreaking accomplishment. We extend special congratulations to our associate editors, Greg Downs and Kate Masur, who played a key role in this lobbying effort! They have also edited a special issue of The Journal of the Civil War Era for March 2017 that addresses the future of Reconstruction studies, and which includes an article on Beaufort by Jennifer Whitmer Taylor and Page Putnam Miller. We look forward to seeing this research in print, and we hope you will find it to be a valuable resource.

[1] Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis, “Obama Names Five New National Monuments, Including Southern Civil Rights Sites,” Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/obama-names-five-new-national-monuments-including-southern-civil-rights-sites/2017/01/12/7f5ce78c-d907-11e6-9a36-1d296534b31e_story.html?utm_term=.ce3df8461239 (accessed January 12, 2017).

[2] Jennifer Schuessler, “President Obama Designates First National Monument Dedicated to Reconstruction,” New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/12/arts/president-obama-designates-national-monuments-to-civil-rights-history.html (accessed January 12, 2017).

Article by Kristen Epps, Journal of the Civil War Era Muster blog.