COLUMBIA, S.C. – U.S. House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn spoke to guests and reporters at Zion Baptist Church in Columbia, South Carolina to celebrate the Reconstruction Era National Historic Park Act and the establishment of the Reconstruction Era National Historic Network. He was joined by Robin Waites, the Executive Director of Historic Columbia and Jannie Harriot, the Chairman of the South Carolina African American Heritage Commission.
The Reconstruction Era National Historic Park Act was passed by the House and Senate in February as part of the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act. This law redesignates the Reconstruction Era National Monument as a National Park in Beaufort County, South Carolina. It also establishes the Reconstruction Era National Historic Network which will be operated by the National Park Service and managed by current site owners, whether federal, state, local, or private.
“South Carolina will be the hub of a new national network that will stretch across the country,” explained Majority Whip Clyburn. “Any place that indicates a relationship to the Reconstruction Era will be able to participate, allowing small and rural communities throughout South Carolina to participate in our number one industry – tourism.”
The Historic Network concept has been utilized in the Underground Railroad Network to Freedom and the African American Civil Rights Network. With the network in place, communities can make their case for federal recognition and assistance for their significant Reconstruction Era sites without the National Park Service having to take on the obligation of owning or managing the sites. The Congressman expects the new legislation to have a significant economic impact in the area.
“We are told that over 500,000 people every year plan their vacations through consulting the National Parks Service,” said Majority Whip Clyburn. “This means that South Carolina will be well positions to have new people coming to our state and helping our economy. And I hope that they will come back time and time again.”
Establishing the Reconstruction Era National Park and Reconstruction Era National Historic Network will provide an in-depth understanding of the many diverse experiences of the nation’s history and provide more opportunities for heritage tourism, which is the fastest growing area in the tourism industry.
“This Network allows us to continue to tell those stories and to make sure it becomes our story,” said Jannie Harriot. “Not white history. Not black history. But our story. This country was built on the backs of many people of various colors, various ethnicities, and we need to tell their stories.”
Zion Baptist Church is just one example of a site that could be eligible for the Reconstruction Era National Historic Network. The church was first organized in 1865 and moved to its current site on Washington Street in 1871. Waites highlighted many other potential locations including Randolph Cemetery and the Woodrow Wilson Family Home, which was built in 1869 and is currently the nation’s only museum dedicated to interpreting the post-Civil War Reconstruction period.
“We have a plethora of sites and stories that can be found throughout our state, region and country,” said Robin Waites. “Establishing a national park and network opens the doors to an even deeper understanding of a history that has yet to be fully uncovered and told.”