A University of South Carolina Beaufort history professor has earned a grant of about $200,000 to teach educators across the country about the Civil War’s aftermath in the South.
J. Brent Morris’ grant is one of 177 humanities projects that will share in a total of $34 million awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Morris will conduct a three-week institute for school teachers next summer to explore the topic of Reconstruction along the southeastern coast. During this period, the government attempted to grant equal rights to former slaves and put them in political leadership positions.
“I realized that no one knows about this period of American history, and I would argue it is one of the most important,” said Morris, who found that many of his students were unaware of what took place after the war. “So what better way to raise awareness than to ensure teachers are teaching our young students about this in elementary through high school.”
The institute will be housed on USCB’s Historic Beaufort Campus. Some classes will also be at the Penn Center on St. Helena Island, Mitchelville on Hilton Head Island and Sapelo Island in Georgia.
Morris said it is appropriate that the institute be held in the movement’s birthplace. Reconstruction began in Port Royal in northern Beaufort County, he said, which was the first territory occupied by the Union in the fall of 1861. The government implemented different ways to give former slaves more rights, called the Port Royal Experiment.
The institute has spots for 30 educators teaching students in kindergarten and 12th grade. Applications will likely open in the fall, according to Morris, and he hopes to have a diverse group of candidates.
The program will be free for participants; the university’s $199,157 grant should cover the travel, lodging and program expenses, Morris said.
The institute will bring in various scholars and experts, including USCB professor emeritus and local historian Larry Rowland. He will be joined by Eric Foner, a professor at Columbia University in New York who is regarded as the leading historian of the Reconstruction era, Morris said.
The scholars will teach several classes on Reconstruction and hold talks about incorporating it into the teachers’ lessons.
Morris said he hopes the 30 participants will spread what they learn when they return to their home districts.
“I want them to leave thoroughly exhausted from all the things we’ve allowed them to do and learn,” he said. “I think these teachers will be able to go out and be Reconstruction evangelicals, if you will, and spread the word to everybody.”