Episode 32: Robert Smalls

“My race needs no special defense, for the past history of them in this country proves them to be the equal of any people anywhere. All they need is an equal chance in the battle of life.”  – Robert Smalls

The story of Robert Smalls’ life is inspirational.  He was a war hero and a political leader who helped lay the ground work for the civil rights movement. But his story is relatively unknown in modern America. On May 13, 1862, Smalls was an enslaved crew member of a Confederate steamship when he and fellow crew members stole the ship and sailed it past Confederate forces to deliver it to Union forces. This outlaw to the Confederacy became a hero of the Union and a symbol of hope and freedom to the enslaved people of the American South.

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Robert Smalls
Robert Smalls Monument, Beaufort, South Carolina Photo by Alfred Williams

Episode Sources
The Thrilling Tale of How Robert Smalls Seized a Confederate Ship and Sailed it to Freedom Smithsonian Magazine. September 2018
Terrorized African-Americans Found Their Champion in Civil War Hero Robert Smalls. Smithsonian Magazine. September 2018
The Search For Planter. Maritime Heritage Program Series Number 1. May 2014

WATCH: Robert Smalls great-great grandson, Michael B. Moore’s TED Talk “The Audacity of Robert Smalls”

WATCH: Panel discussion on the The Life and Legacy of Former Slave Robert Smalls, part of a city-wide Robert Smalls Commemorative Weekend held in Charleston, South Carolina in 2012. See video here.

Theme Song “Dark & Troubled” by Panthernburn. Special thanks to Phillip St Ours for permission for use.

Background Music: “Thoreau” by Spazz Cardigan. “Ever Mindful”, “Magic Forest”, “Bittersweet” and “Relaxing Piano” by Kevin MacLeod. Licensed under Creative Commons.”Last Stand” and “The Chase” by Purple Plant Music Licensed under Creative Commons


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