Clyburn Introduces Legislation to create National Monument dedicated to Reconstruction ERA at Penn Center

Jun 2, 2016

ColumbiA, S.C.U.S. House Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn released the following statement after introducing the “Penn School – Reconstruction Era National Monument Act.”

The bill would designate the historic Penn Center campus (formerly known as Penn School) on St. Helena Island, South Carolina, as a National Monument.  The National Monument would be dedicated to the history of the Reconstruction Era and managed by the National Park Service.  He was joined by Rep. Mark Sanford as an original cosponsor.

“Penn Center is one of the most significant historical institutions in America.  Founded during the Civil War as Penn School, it was one of the first schools built in the South to educate newly freed slaves.  Throughout the Reconstruction Era, Penn School helped African Americans of the Sea Islands of South Carolina thrive and take advantage of opportunities denied to them by slavery.”

“After local governments began to operate public schools for African Americans, Penn reorganized as Penn Center, a community organization dedicated to civil rights, preservation of Gullah history and culture, and providing critical services and resources to the community on St. Helena.  Penn Center continues its mission today, operating on the same historic campus continuously since the Civil War.”

“This bill would establish a National Monument dedicated to the history and interpretation of the Reconstruction Era, a period of history underrepresented in the National Park System.  For generations, the story of this era was intentionally manipulated, to downplay the civil rights and economic gains made by African Americans following the Civil War and the pernicious efforts by white Southerners to disfranchise them.”

“The site of Penn School is the ideal location for a National Monument dedicated to the Reconstruction Era, as its history is one of the best examples of the stories of the period.  Importantly, enacting this legislation will not detract from Penn Center’s ongoing operations.  The National Park Service would partner with Penn Center to manage the National Monument, but Penn Center will continue their mission on their historic campus as they have for over 150 years.”