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.