Photo of historian Gregory Downs standing in front of bookshelves
History professor Gregory Downs' successful efforts to create a national monument to Reconstruction earned him recognition from the UC Davis Academic Senate. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Historian Honored for Helping to Create Monument to Reconstruction

Successful campaign for new national monument described as a rare achievement in public service.

Historian Gregory Downs has been awarded a 2018 UC Davis Academic Senate's Distinguished Scholarly Public Service Award for his leadership in establishing the nation’s first monument to Reconstruction.

The January 2017 designation of the new monument in the historic Sea Islands region of Beaufort County, South Carolina, followed nearly four years of efforts by Downs and other experts on the post-Civil War era.

In nominating Downs for the award, fellow UC Davis history professor Eric Rauchway said his colleague’s devotion to setting the record straight on Reconstruction led to “an accomplishment of value to the public that few of us will ever match.”

Downs has devoted much of his career to educating the public about a widely misunderstood period in U.S. history—writing books, articles and an interactive website about the "forgotten second founding of the nation.”

He co-wrote the National Park Service’s Theme Study on Reconstruction, helped edit the Park Service’s handbook on Reconstruction and helped identify appropriate sites for a monument.

When President Barack Obama, during his last week in office, proclaimed the new monument to Reconstruction, he echoed Downs’ words—saying that the era “was in many ways the nation’s second founding, as Americans abolished slavery and struggled earnestly, if not always successfully, to build a nation of free and equal citizens.”

The Academic Senate award, given annually, honors "exceptional faculty who continue the tradition and demonstrate the commitment of the Davis campus to public service.”

— Kathleen Holder, content strategist in the UC Davis College of Letters and Science

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