As President Barack Obama heralded the opening of the long-awaited National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, he argued that we must confront all of American history, even the parts that "make us uncomfortable," if we are to "learn and grow and harness our collective power to make this nation more perfect."
Obama can deliver on the promise of those words by using his authority to create a national monument to Reconstruction in Beaufort County, South Carolina, so that Americans can confront the dramatic victories and bitter defeats of a crucial time in our nation's history.
For a century and a half, the United States has struggled to commemorate - or even to remember - what happened in the wake of slavery's abolition. During the 20th century, propagandists and white supremacists dismissed Reconstruction as a mistake, while Northern nationalists often forgot a period that did not fit with commonly held narratives of progress. At National Park Service sites, as in popular movies and novels, it proved far easier to talk about the Civil War than to grapple with what came next.