Organization Celebrates South Carolina's African American Civil War and Reconstruction Period Heroes
One influential group of historians joined together and decided to celebrate the lives of these individuals and their quest for equal rights.
“It is our intent to raise awareness about these unsung heroes through educational programs, commemorative events, preservation efforts, lectures and historical tours.”
The group created the African American Historical Alliance, a nonprofit organization formally established earlier this year to increase awareness about the role of African Americans in the Civil War and the Reconstruction period that followed the war.
"We hope that our organization will bring a greater awareness to our community about the integral role that history played in improving our lives as we know it today," explains Billy Jenkinson, an attorney from Kingstree, South Carolina and chairman of the board for the Alliance. "Our efforts are a powerful tribute to a group of soldiers and equal rights pioneers who overcame nearly insurmountable odds in their fight for freedom."
The main goal of the Alliance is to be a leading resource for education and the celebration of African American Civil War and Reconstruction history in South Carolina. The group plans to do this through by focusing on three areas: preservation, commemoration and education. The Alliance is already working closely with teachers and the South Carolina Council for African American Studies.
In addition to their affiliation with the Council, the nonprofit has formed close alliances with organizations such as the South Carolina National Heritage Corridor, The African American Civil War Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, and the Avery Research Center at the College of Charleston, the South Carolina African American Heritage Commission and the National Park Service.
"The Alliance will provide a much needed focus on an underrepresented period of South Carolina's history," says Jannie Harriot, chairman of the American African Heritage Commission and co-chair for the Alliance board of directors. "It is our intent to raise awareness about these unsung heroes through educational programs, commemorative events, preservation efforts, lectures and historical tours."
The Alliance plans to officially kick-off their formation with a weekend full of special events, October 27-28, 2006. Starting off the series of events will be an exhibit and lecture at the Charleston Museum on the life of 1st Lieut. Stephen A. Swails, as well as a monument dedication for Swails, who is currently buried in an unmarked gravesite in Charleston's Humane and Friendly Society Cemetery. Swails served with the Massachusetts 54th regiment that fought on Morris Island, remained in South Carolina following the Civil War and became a three-term South Carolina Senator, a trustee of the University of South Carolina and Mayor of Kingstree, South Carolina.
The series of events is being planned in conjunction with the South Carolina Council on African American Studies' annual conference that will be held at the Convention Center in North Charleston the same weekend.
Lastly, the Alliance plans to host a reception at the William Aiken House to celebrate the creation of the organization, recognize South Carolina teachers and to thank supporters.
Details for all events will follow. For additional information about the Alliance, membership and sponsorship opportunities, visit the Alliance's Web site at www.aahasc.org or call (843) 216-0442.