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Robert Smalls, BOMA Minute

On April 5, 1839 Robert Smalls was born enslaved in Beaufort S.C. Hating slavery all his life, he determined early that he would be free. Working around Charleston’s seaport, he taught himself to read, write and pilot steamships. He learned to master tricky currents. He maneuvered around the harbors and docks so well that the southern ship owners came to rely on his expertise.

Early on the morning of May 13, 1862, twelves month into the Civil War, he secreted his wife, three children and 12 escaped slaves aboard the Planter, a Confederate Steamship. He piloted the steamer through Confederate waters flying the Rebel flag. Once he cleared the range of the Rebel cannon, making it safely to Union waters, he hoisted a white flag of truce and turned the ship over to the commanding officer of the Union fleet.

Robert Smalls, his family and crew were welcomed as heroes and awarded their freedom. President Lincoln personally acknowledged his bravery making him a Captain in the U.S Navy. He later served in the South Carolina House of Representatives and was elected to the U.S. Congress. This has been another Breath of My Ancestors Minute brought to you by the Institute of Radical Reconciliation… #WeMustNeverForget


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