; ROBERT SMALLS 1839-1915 Robert Smalls Early Life Born a slave
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ROBERT SMALLS 1839-1915 Robert Smalls Early Life Born a slave


  • pg 1
Robert Smalls
                    Early Life

• Born a slave April 5,1839 in Beaufort, SC
• Son of Lydia Polite, a house slave for John K.
  McKee – had a tremendous impact on his life
• At 12 years old, sent to Charleston to hire
  himself out for pay; until he turned 18, his owner
  received all but $1.00 of Small’s pay. At 18
  negotiated with owner to keep $15 per month of
  his pay.
• At 17, married Hannah Jones,32, a slave hotel
  maid on December 24, 1856.
• After a daughter Elizabeth Lydia was born,
  Smalls entered a contract with his owner,
  Samuel Kingman, to buy his wife and child
  for $800. A son, Robert, Jr. was born in
• Hired in 1861 as a deckhand on the
  Planter, a transport steamer serving
  Brigadier General Roswell Ripley,
  commander of the Second Military District
  of SC.

• Smalls advanced and became a pilot of
  the Planter.
USS Keokuk
            May 13, 1862
• Commandeered the Confederate transport
  ship, the Planter on May 13, 1862.

• Smalls, age 23, along with his wife,
  children and 12 other slaves escaped to
  Union forces.
 Impact of liberating the Planter
• NY Daily Tribune:
• “Is he not also a man – and is he not fit for
  freedom, since he made such a hazardous dash
  to gain it?....Is he not a man and a hero—whose
  pluck has not been questioned by even the
  Charleston Courier or the New York
  Herald?...What white man has made a bolder
  dash, or won a richer prize in the teeth of such
  perils during war?...Perhaps [blacks are inferior
  to whites] but they seem to possess good
  material for improvement. Few white men have
  a better record than Robert Smalls.”
• Along with missionary Mansfield French,
  Met with Secretary of War Stanton and
  President Lincoln in 1862.
  – Requested and received permission to recruit
    5,000 troops
  – Sent on a speaking tour of New York to raise
    support for the Union cause.
• Smalls provided valuable information to
  Union Forces
  – Directed Union Commander Marchand to
    “cross the bar with several gunboats and
    occupy Stono. The river was occupied as far
    up as Legareville, and examinations extended
    further, to ascertain the position of the
    enemies’ batteries. The seizure of Stono Inlet
    and river secured an important base for future
    operations, and was virtually a turning of the
    forces in Charleston harbor.” (Navy Report to
    President Lincoln) May 1862
  – Contributions of contrabands
• April 7, 1863 – pilot of ironclad Keokuk
  during the failed Union attack on Fort
  Sumter. Keokuk struck 90+ times.
• (1st Battle of Charleston Harbor)

• December 1, 1863, Smalls became the
  first black captain of a vessel in the service
  of the U.S.
  – Daughter, Sarah Voorhees, was born on the
    same date.
• Smalls taught to read and write by tutors

• After the Civil War, became a major
  general in the South Carolina militia and a
  state legislator.

• Hanna died in 1883
• Married Annie Elizabeth Wigg in 1890;
  they had one son, Robert Smalls
• Annie died in 1895
              Political Life
• Member of the U.S. House of
  Representatives (SC 5th and 7th Districts)
  Republican Party (Beaufort, SC)

• March 1875-March 1879
• July 1862-March 1883
• March 1884-March 1887
• Submitted legislation that created the first
  public schools in South Carolina; SC
  Public Accommodation Act; U.S.
  Legislation that created Parris Island
  Marine Base
• Served as U.S. Collector of Customs in
  Beaufort, SC for nearly 20 years.
• Was the most powerful African American
  male in South Carolina for five decades

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

         Robert Smalls, November 1, 1895
The LSV-8 MG Robert Smalls
Largest Army Transport Ship
     2004 Christening
                   Black % of state     Black         White       Black % of
    State         population (1870)   Legislators   Legislators   Legislature

South Carolina           59               84            73            53

  Mississippi            56               40            75            34

  Louisiana              51               49            88            36

   Florida               49               19            57            25

  Alabama                48               26            58            30

   Georgia               46               32           214            13

   Virginia              42               27           154            15

North Carolina           37               19           135            12

    Texas                31               11           156             6

  Tennessee              26               1             94             1

  Arkansas               25               0             87             0
• South per capita income decreased by 1/3

• AL, LA, MS, GA, SC lost 45.8% of total

• No Marshall type plan
• Central to the national debate over
    Efforts of Southern African Americans
    to breathe full meaning into their newly
    acquired freedom.
           Prodded Americans at their first
           attempt to live up to the noble
           professions of the Constitution.
• 1864 – Robert Smalls selected from SC to participate in the
  1864 Republican National Convention—denied seating.

• 1867 – New Constitution – Convention of 48 whites and 76
  blacks meet. Write a progressive constitution.

• 1869 – Joseph Rainey becomes the first AA in South Carolina
  to become a U.S. Representative in Congress. Followed by
  seven others before African Americans are driven out of
  elected office: Robert C. DeLarge, Robert Brown Elliott,
  Richard H. Cain, Alonzo Rainier, Robert Smalls, Thomas E.
  Miller, and George W. Murray
 Education (Freedmen Bureau)
• Bureau extended in 1866
  – Congress included the first educational
    provisions, along with a one-half million dollar
    appropriation for the “repair and rental” of
    school property (law interpreted broadly and
    imaginatively and proved flexible).
  – Repair and rental resulted in many new
    school buildings and old buildings of all sorts
    converted into schoolhouses.
 Education (Freedmen Bureau)
• Freedmen urged to begin construction of a
  building, paying what they could and
  providing labor.
  – Under the rubric “repairs” the Bureau paid for
    the completion of the work often including
    windows, flooring, furniture…

  In it’s seven years of educational work, it is
    estimated that the Bureau spent nearly four
    million dollars on school buildings.
             ECONOMIC ISSUES

•   Education (Universal, AA and Northern Support)
•   Labor/Sharecropping
•   Spiritual (churches)
•   Economic (Land, Benevolent Societies, Businesses)
•   Universal Manhood Suffrage
        Black Conventions, Sit-ins and Strikes

Note: AA leaders who were former slaves were often more concerned about
  land and labor issues; non-former slave AA leaders were often more
  concerned about civil rights’ issues.
SC Reconstruction and
• 1870 – State Legislature, with AA in control, passes a
  law to create a state-wide public school system. First
  such effort in state.

• 1873 – The first African Americans enter the
  University of SC. Most white faculty and students
  leave, but the school remains open with the help of
  white faculty from North. After Reconstruction, USC
  reopened as an all-white school.
                       Richard Greener

1870 - First African American
graduate of Harvard and dean
of the Howard university
School of Law

1873 - Professor of mental and
moral philosophy at the
University of South Carolina

1877 – Moved to DC as Clerk
in the Treasury Dept. and
Professor in Howard Law

1898 – Appointed US
Commercial Agent in
Vladivostok, Russia until 1905
• 1870 – Allen University (AME)

• 1870 - Benedict College (Northern
• First time a national third party emerges (Grant
  elected in 1868—charges of corruption and
  incompetence created the Liberal Republican Party
  (1872); helped prevent reelection of Grant.

• New laws and constitutional amendments
  permanently altered federal system and nature of
  American citizenship.

• Establishment of state-wide southern public
  education systems.

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