I’m delighted to be able to announce that Michael Allen, who many of us know as the “father” of the Gullah Geechee Corridor and the Reconstruction Era National Monument, now the National Historical Park and Network will chair the Advisory Board for the “Second Founding of America: Reconstruction Beaufort.”
It’s an honor to have the retired National Park Service professional who is widely known and respected among the many history and heritage organizations throughout the state, region and nation.
Michael can be reached at 1-843-696-9558 or [email protected].
Message from the Chairman of the Advisory Board
I am honored to serve as the chairperson of the Reconstruction Beaufort Advisory Board. As the chairman, I am committed to supporting the efforts and activities of Reconstruction Beaufort, to bring a broader awareness of its historic significance. I am keenly aware that Reconstruction was a challenging time in our American history that has been over looked by some and marginalized by others. It is my objective to shine a positive light on the Era of Reconstruction, and bring a greater appreciation on how it is knitted in the fabric of our American story.
I would like to introduce myself to those that may not know who I am. The majority of my career was centered on developing presentations about difficult periods in our American history, designing exhibits and displays to convey a better understanding of the transitional periods in our history. I am a native of South Carolina. I currently reside in Mount Pleasant, SC. I have been married to my wife, Latanya for 31 years and we have three children.
I have been a community leader for most of my adult life. I was an employee of the National Park Service (NPS) for almost 38 years. While I was employed by NPS, I was assigned to lead and develop the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor (2006) and Reconstruction Era National Monument (2017). The development of these two entities demonstrates my passion and concern for the entire history of our country to be told. Upon my retirement from the NPS, my wife and I started Allen Consultant Firm (ACF). ACF deals with all aspect of history, culture and historic preservation.
It is Reconstruction Beaufort’s goal to work with the NPS, Beaufort County, and surrounding areas to present a seamless story of Reconstruction in Beaufort, as well as in South Carolina. It is my intent to create a network of sites that can work together, and become a conduit to the nation in regards to the history of Reconstruction in American. Reconstruction Beaufort would like to partner with you and your organization to facilitate a nationwide consortium of sites, and communities whose story are linked to the Reconstruction Era.
While the few of us volunteers have not yet done the best we could vetting ideas, getting your input and hearing your thoughts, we have been hard at work. Getting things done just seems to take longer that we like and toward the end of the school year, with so many teachers and students engaged, scheduling has been complicated. That said, with the few resources we’ve gathered we are making serious progress;
Our First in-progress initiative is the establishment of the “Second Founding of America Multicultural Learning Center”. Once proven effective it can be replicated in other communities interested in discovering the history of their community, the stories, people and places.
The Leaning Center’s focus is to mobilize a legion of middle school students (age 11-15, with some younger and others a bit older) equip them to uncover stories about people, places and events critical to a better and more complete understanding of the era which will unlock the shackles of history.
About 35 students, organized into teams to cover geographical areas that are already in the field with six two-minute short documentary films to be released in August. Once schools start in September, we will be recruiting additional “story catchers” who will be dispatched to other parts of the Lowcountry. The program is being facilitated by A Back Pack Journalist, which has been training students to capture stories on video for more than a dozen years.
By the way, along the road to launching this program, we learned that after two years of learning about Harriet Tubman, writing a script, designing the staging, selecting the music and performing, 150 students, from Beaufort Middle, Mossy Oaks and Port Royal Elementary Schools performed the Play about Harriet Tubman. Believing this achievement, demonstrating both the story and the teaching process was too important, Reconstruction Beaufort is producing a video that captures the essence of the play with all students on the screen. The video is being edited and will be released in September.
Partial Funding for this project was graciously funded by Linda Ketner of Charleston.
The Travelling Reconstruction Beaufort Youth Choir has completed auditions, though there’s room for more, and will present their first performance in September. We will be looking for schools and community organizations to which we can present.
The Choir is facilitated by Marlena Smalls, known for her success with the Hallelujah Singers, Dr. Eric Crawford, Musicologist from Coastal Carolina, Karen Harman, retired voice coach and music director from Beaufort Middle School and coordinated by Marianne Rice a teacher, performer and story teller.
SC Humanities provided a planning grant for the Choir.
Visual Arts Center
For those interested in telling stories through the visual arts, we are working on building out an artist studio with an Artist in Residence who wants to work with us to develop interpretations through visual art. We will have a revolving gallery to show the art that will in some cases be for sale. Amiri Farris, who teaches at the Savannah College of Art, is facilitating the program established in partnership with the Arts Council of Beaufort County.
Teaching Teachers to Teach Reconstruction
While several organizations, like the NEH-USCB Teachers Institute and the SC Commission on African American History and Culture, among others, are teaching teachers about Reconstruction, the Learning Center’s focus, working hand in hand with Facing History and Ourselves, which has developed hands on teaching tools for years, will be focused on class room and field activities that actually translate what they know about the history, to a menu for teaching and learning activities.
Two weeks ago we hosted our first of what we are hoping will be quarterly teacher training events in Beaufort and other communities. The approximately 20 participants left the two-day session (the first day touring the sites of the National Park, followed by fellowship in the evening at my home, the second in the classroom reviewing teaching techniques. with huge enthusiasm to begin to address the issues in their classrooms and to recruit their teaching colleagues to join the program.
I hope you will be as excited as we are as this is the only program we’ve found that will prepare students to learn and teach to their fellow students, families, and their communities.
Celebration of National Historical Park Status
We are still waiting for an alternative date, from Congressman Clyburn’s office and others in the delegation, for the celebration of the transitioning of the Monument into a National Historical Park. We will keep you posted.
Advisory Board Meeting
All of this is very exciting and I am enthusiastic about bringing as many of you as possible together to share what we are doing and even more importantly, to hear your ideas for perfecting the Learning Center, (which will be a model for other communities), generating new research projects and collaboration in protecting special places.
As your chair, Michael Allen will in the future be writing these updates.