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On a moonlit night in the spring of 1862, six slaves stole one of the Confederacy's most crucial gunships from its wharf in the South Carolina port of Charleston and delivered it to the Federal Navy. This audacious and intricately coordinated escape, masterminded by a 24-year-old sailor named Robert Smalls, astonished the world and exploded the Confederate claim that Southern slaves did not crave freedom or have the ability to take decisive action.
LESSON 23 ROBERT SMALLS I. Objectives 1. To highlightthe.ach!.evemeIrts, contributions, influence the stateandnational and on levelsof this nativeSouthCarohnran. II Backgroundfor the Lesson Robert Smallswas born a slavein Beaufort. His mother, Lydia, was a house servant. His father purportedly was the masterthough scholars mentionthe possibility others. In of younger years, Robert Smallswas given many advantages his not availableto most slave children As a young teenager, was sentto Charleston he where he lived with McKees,his master'ssister. There he held variousjobs. He worked on the wharvesdriving a hoisting horsethat guidedthe balesof cottonas theywere lifted from the pier to the high decksof the steamers. the time he was fifteen,he was madeforeman. The job that he liked most was By testingboats in all sorts of weather. He studiedmaps and charts,tracedchannels, studied currentsand tides and memorized the location of the shoalsand reefs in the Charleston Harbor. By the time of the CivilWar he had complete mastery the harbors of andwaterways of the SouthCarolina and Georgiaseacoasts.He soonwas offereda job on a steamer called the Planter. After the war began,he became pilot. He remained this positionafter the its in Confederate Government chartered Planterand converted into a special the it dispatch boat for the defbnse Charleston.The Planterhad a carryingcapacityof a thousand of men. He was soon elevatedto the position of wheelman, position of trust and honor. On the a morningof May 13, 1862,Robert Smalls carriedthrougha planto take himself, wife and his childrenand a few friendsaboardthe Planterand turn it over to a Federalshipjust outside Charleston Harbor. Following this he servedthe United StatesNavy. After the war he became prominent a politicalfigure SouthCarolina in until his death 1915. in III. The Lessou The lessonfocuses a missionin which Robert Smalls on was sentto convince President Lincolnto arm Negro troopsin the SouthCarolina lowcountryto fight for the Union. This is done in retrospective context through an interviewwith a reporter from The New York Enterprise, black newspaper a that had criticizedMr Smallsafter his defeatfrom Congress. In the lesson Mr Smalls reminds reporterof the manypositivethingsthat he achieved the for his constituents. IV. Pre-Telecast Activities L Do somebackground research RobertSmalls on from your historytext. A. TheHistory of Smth Carolina in the Building of the Nation;Archie Vernon Huff, Jr , pp 268-269,286-287,366 B. SouthC.aroliila-One o.f'the Fi/ry Smes; Lewis P. Jones, 485-48. pp 45 Activities V. Post-Telecast 1 Have a group of studentsread('aptain of the Planter, by Dorothy Stirling and make only inyour pu6liclibrary. a report"tothe class.This book may be available References: 1. The History of SouthCarolinain the Buildingof the Nation:Archie Vernon Huff, Jr. and Alester G. F u r m a n l,l l , 1 9 9 1 ,p p .2 6 8 ,2 6 9 ,2 8 6 ,3 6 6 . of 2. SouthCarolina-One the Fifty Sfafes;LewisP. Jones,pp. 485, 509, 539. 40
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