After serving as a congressional staffer, a member of the SC House of Representatives and for three highly productive terms as Mayor of Beaufort, SC, Billy decided not to run for office again. Instead, he’ll do his utmost to devote himself toward making a positive difference for society in a new way starting with this book.
What Others Say
Dr. Eric Foner | DeWitt Clinton Professor Emeritus of History | Columbia University
We need more public officials like Bill Keyserling -- ones who understand the importance of promoting public understanding of our common history, and especially the often misunderstood yet crucial and inspiring era known as Reconstruction. Issues that roil our politics today -- who should be a citizen, who should vote, what is the relationship between political and economic democracy -- and many more, are Reconstruction questions. Sharing Common Ground expertly interweaves Keyserling's own family and personal history with the history of the Beaufort area, ground zero for Reconstruction in South Carolina, where recently freed slaves achieved a remarkable degree of political power and economic progress. The reader gets a full sense of the reasons for his passion for bringing the story of Reconstruction to students and visitors, via the new Reconstruction Era National Historical Park. Knowledge of Reconstruction can be a step in making America a more just society.
James E. Clyburn | Majority Whip, U.S. House of Representatives
When President Obama and I discussed and planned the Reconstruction Era National Park, we knew it would succeed in revealing the lost history of that era only if we could find local acceptance and implementation. Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling, a long time friend, has put together precisely the kind of creative programs with local partners to realize our joint mission to teach the acts of heroism that created what he wisely calls the Second Founding of America. His personal leadership and contributions have my deep appreciation and hopes for continuing what we, together, can do to translate the lessons of the past to a brighter future for generations to come.
Dr. Althea Sumpter | Independent Scholar, Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor former Commissioner
The history of Beaufort County, South Carolina, is essential to the history of the United States Civil War. The blueprint for reconstructing the South, implemented in this district held by Union troops throughout the war, is part of my own family story as a Gullah Geechee native on St. Helena Island, across the bridge from downtown Beaufort. Billy Keyserling gives us a passionate and personal illumination of the Reconstruction Era, its complicated history as a part of the Southern story, and why this story must be preserved. Billy weaves together his family’s journey and his role in governance — along with his leadership in helping Beaufort County become a National Historic Park. He helps us understand the significance of this unique designation, as we begin to build community and acknowledge our shared cultural past.
Bakari Sellers | Attorney | former legislator and news commentator
Billy Keyserling’s insightful self-examination to find and follow his moral compass is a must-read. His focus is on assembling and connecting a network of teachers and students to learn and teach the largely untold stories of what freed slaves were able to achieve during the amazing but largely overlooked era in American history known as “Reconstruction” immediately following the Civil War.
Freedmen fought in the Union Army to liberate their enslaved brothers and sisters. They learned to read and write, became craftsmen and productive entrepreneurs, started six colleges and universities in SC alone, achieved the right to vote and served in public office as Americans ... until the Jim Crow era largely wiped those truths out of our textbooks.
As a young black student, I was never taught in school about the phenomenal achievements of freed African American slaves. I’m blessed to have been raised by educated parents who taught me the truth about what my predecessors from Africa had accomplished after the Civil War. My father, Cleveland Sellers, became a civil rights leader, himself.
Mayor Billy argues persuasively that today’s generations should be learning this real but largely un-taught history in our schools. Read this important book! Then join a new quest for fairness and truth in our educational curricula... which will help our society to find and share common ground, making this a better world for us all.
Net proceeds from the sale of this book will go to funding The Second Founding of America: Reconstruction Beaufort, Teach Reconstruction, and the active engagement of others to uncover and tell the untold and correct the mistold stories of our unknown history.