Drawn to Beaufort were some of the most ardent abolitionists, forward thinkers and extraordinary figures of the era. The majority, though, had in actuality no or little direct experience with slavery and had little idea what to expect or how to proceed.
Great uncertainty revolved around the best method for aiding in the transition. Some believed the key was in education, for others it was economic and for still others it was military service. At times, those with even the best motives (and those with less altruistic objectives) would clash. Collectively, their efforts came to known as the Port Royal Experiment as the potential routes to a new society were tested.
So great was their vision and so large their hopes, it is easy to lose sight of how small the stage was for their efforts. Their grand view for the future of former slaves and the future of the South would be tried in tiny Beaufort and acted out in part on the smaller stage of the Elizabeth Barnwell Gough House.
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