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Free & Equal in Beaufort

Experience Free & Equal in the Sea Islands

Visit the place where formerly enslaved African Americans first experienced freedom as a community, now the location of the Reconstruction Era National Historical Park.

Visit Beaufort & the Sea Islands

Free & Equal: The Promise of Reconstruction explores the compelling story of a unique time and place in U.S. history, often referred to as the Rehearsal for Reconstruction.

The Reconstruction Era National Historical Park was established in 2017 in Beaufort County, South Carolina to preserve and interpret this history. 

The Free & Equal project provides two compelling resources for all visitors, whether you are visiting Beaufort or staying home.


Mobile Tour App

The Free & Equal mobile tour app for visitors coming to the park or who want a podcast-style storytelling experience at home.


Explore the History

The Explore the history section provides a visually-rich online resource that presents the dynamic history of African Americans and their supporters in the Sea Islands striving to achieve freedom and equality for all.

To learn more & download the Free & Equal mobile app visit

Mobile Tour App

The Free & Equal mobile app is an audio and augmented reality journey exploring a key moment in the history of Civil Rights. Using GPS, this app guides you site-to-site through Reconstruction Era Historical Park in Beaufort, South Carolina.

The Free & Equal app is a state of the art, interactive, and tremendously engaging way for anyone with a smartphone to learn about Beaufort’s rich and storied history. The eyes of the world were on Beaufort 150 years ago and post-Civil War ideas and events still resonate. 

-Professor J. Brent Morris PhD, University of South Carolina, Beaufort

This smartphone companion app allows you to relive the Port Royal Experiment through the eyes of Sgt. Isaiah Brown, whose life and the life of his descendants, was utterly transformed during this time period. The Free & Equal mobile app is free to download and allows you to step into the sites, battles, and personal experiences of the “Rehearsal for Reconstruction” that happened on the Sea Islands. If you are visiting the area, the app will guide you on a one-hour narrated drive through the sites of the Port Royal Experiment and include augmented reality recreations of historical events, hidden artifacts, and compelling narration guiding you stop-to-stop.

Can’t get to Beaufort? You can still experience the Free & Equal mobile tour app from home! Think of it as listening to a podcast, with some augmented reality sprinkled in. To experience Free & Equal remotely, visit the remote viewing section of for more information.

Throughout this website you will find references to the mobile app experiences that tie into the history presented here. Download the free app now to follow along.

The Reconstruction Era National Historical Park

The park was established in 2017 and provides a range of dynamic experiences across its four sites, all within a few miles of downtown Beaufort, SC. From historic downtown Beaufort to Camp Saxton along the river to Brick Baptist Church and Penn Center on nearby Saint Helena Island, there is an incredible wealth of history to enjoy. Visit the National Park website for more information about planning your visit.

Downtown Beaufort

For most visitors, the experience begins in beautiful downtown Beaufort, home to the Reconstruction National Historical Park headquarters, the historic Beaufort Arsenal, and Robert Smalls' house.

Camp Saxton on Port Royal Island

Camp Saxton

Established in 1862 on Port Royal Island, Camp Saxton was home to the 1st South Carolina Infantry. On January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation was read to that same infantry and hundreds of other formerly enslaved people.

Brick Baptist Church on St. Helena Island

Brick Baptist Church

Built in 1855 by enslaved people on St. Helena Island, Brick Baptist Church was one of the first schools for newly-freed people during the Reconstruction era.

Penn Center

Founded in 1862, Penn School was one of the first places for the formal education of formerly enslaved African Americans. Since then, Penn Center has been a hub for social justice, Gullah Geechee heritage, and historic preservation throughout the Sea Islands. Visit the Penn Center website for more information.