Benedict College and Allen University are among eight S.C. community sites added to the newly established Reconstruction Era National Historic Network, launched in March by the National Parks Service.
The national network connects sites across the country that provide education, interpretation and research for Reconstruction, the post-Civil War period generally dated from 1865 to 1877 during which attempts were made to address the political, social and economic inequities of slavery and the readmission of the 11 states that had seceded from the Union.
The John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, signed into law on March 12, 2019, outlined the creation of the Reconstruction Era National Historic Network, which includes parks and battlefields throughout the country. Other S.C. sites in the network include Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historic Park and Congaree National Park.
A Nov. 23 video announced the addition of Allen and Benedict, along with Claflin University, Clinton College, Mather School, Rose Hill Plantation State Historic Site, South Carolina State University and Voorhees College.
“This Reconstruction Era is a very misunderstood part of our history,” Rep. James Clyburn said in the video. “I think that they only way for us to really gain appreciation for it is for the story to be told accurately.”
Allen and Benedict are both historically Black colleges and universities in Columbia.
Founded in 1870 by Bathsheba A. Benedict, Benedict College is a private liberal arts institution with more than 1,738 students from all 46 S.C. counties, 30 states and 26 countries enrolled in 25 degree programs.
Allen University was founded in 1870 by the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
“I commend the National Park Service for taking bold and progressive steps toward inclusive education by creating the Reconstruction Era National Historic Network. It is a testament to the enduring legacy and profound importance of HBCUs,” Roslyn Clark Artis, Benedict president and CEO, said in a news release. “I am excited that our collective stories of resilience, leadership and education will be highlighted as a part of a national network exploring the accounts of educated African Americans during the United States Reconstruction Era.”
The newly added sites also include Mather School, a Beaufort landmark founded in 1867 to provide education to formerly enslaved Black girls, and Rose Hill Plantation State Historic Site, the Union County home of former S.C. Gov. William H. Gist which interprets stories of tenant farming.
“The Reconstruction story is a national story,” said Scott Teodorski, superintendent of Reconstruction Era National Historic Park. “It includes sites from all over the country. Some of the sites are managed by the National Park Service, and many are not. The Reconstruction Era National Historic Network provides an opportunity to connect these sites and to connect visitors to their stories as part of the Reconstruction Era. We are very excited to welcome these new sites to the network and look forward to working with them.”