National Park Service hosts public forums on Reconstruction-era National Monument

Planning continues for Beaufort’s Reconstruction-era National Monument.

The National Park Service is holding public forums in the Lowcountry this week. They want to ask residents questions to help shape what the monument will look like.

“A lot of the questions revolve around learning more about the resources here in the community and why they’re historically significant and the stories the community would like to share with the American people,” said Project Manager Justin Henderson.

The monument will include four sites: the old Beaufort firehouse, Penn Center’s Darrah Hall, Brick Baptist Church and the emancipation oak where the Emancipation Proclamation was first read aloud to slaves.

“It’s an opportunity for the community to provide their feedback and really help inform the overall planning process,” Henderson said.

St. Helena resident Cynthia Gregory-Smalls remembers her father’s stories about his time as a student at the Penn School.

“This was a private institution. It wasn’t public, students had to pay to come here. Do you know how long it took some of our students to work to get 6 dollars to pay here? My dad worked all summer and still couldn’t earn 6 dollars,” Gregory-Smalls said.

She said she wants to make sure the National Park Service maintains the integrity of Penn Center, but she’s glad the story of the Reconstruction era will finally be told.

“This story was swept underneath the rug and I’m glad it’s coming to the forefront. I’m glad it’s being told now so it won’t be lost and it can happen during my lifetime and the lifetime of my children,” Gregory-Smalls said.

If you want to provide feedback to the National Park Service, there will be public forums on Tuesday at 6:30 pm at Port Royal Town Hall and Thursday at 6:30 pm at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Beaufort.

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