By Luana M. Graves Sellars
The Mitchelville Freedom Park commemorates the nearly forgotten, historic town of Mitchelville, South Carolina. Two distinct phases qualified Mitchelville as an important Underground Railroad site. First, it was the site of mass escapes from Hilton Head Island plantations when Union troops entered Port Royal Sound in November 1861. With the first shots fired, the enslaved island population seized their opportunity for freedom. Despite threats and deception by local plantation owners, freedom-seekers bolted to the woods until Union troops occupied the area. Second, Mitchelville became the destination for waves of freedom-seekers fleeing bondage in nearby Confederate territories of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. It was the place where the newly emancipated would first experience freedom and emerge from enslaved victims into responsible citizens.
Mitchelville was the heart of The Port Royal Experiment, which was launched by the U.S. government and proved to a skeptical American public that African-Americans would fight for freedom and country, work for wages within a free-enterprise labor system, and live responsibly as independent citizens. Mitchelville was constructed, inhabited and governed exclusively by previously enslaved freedom-seekers. Activities in this settlement were reported nationwide, ultimately influencing national reconstruction policies.
Follow these links for more information about Historic Mitchelville Freedom Park, the first self-governed town for freedmen, the Lowcountry Heritage Trail and Reconstruction Era National Monument in Beaufort, SC or Beaufort County |Ground Zero for Our Nation’s Heritage Tourism
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