American hero, Congressman Robert Smalls, was celebrated this weekend and a documentary was shown that marks his astounding journey from slave to congressman in the the film shown at The Avery Research Center in Charleston, South Carolina this weekend, as reported by the local news.
Film producer Adrena Ifill said, "He is such an American hero, and I think it is important to preserve the history of American patriots and heroes so that generations to come can really know what took place and the impact and legacy he has left behind." It was 150 years ago when Smalls took "control of a Confederate boat called the CSS Planter in Charleston, and turned it over to the federal navy," a journey that marked his freedom.
Smalls's plight prompted A Pennsylvania Congressman to exclaim that blacks had "enterprise, energy, and capacity, and may be trusted to go it alone."
After the civil war, Smalls's compassion revealed itself, as he became re-acquainted with his former master's mother, who he allowed to live with him, after purchasing his former master's house in Beaufort. Imagine, Smalls owned the house where he once resided as a slave!
Of the Republican Party, he related to them because, "The party of Lincoln...unshackled the necks of four million human beings." The rhetoric was alive and well in the days of Smalls, as his opponent, George D. Tillman, who hailed from a prominent Democratic family, was known as a "red shirt." The New York Times referred to Tillman as a "Democratic tiger, violent in his treatment of Republicans, incendiary in his language, and advising all sorts of illegal measures to restrain Republicans from voting."
During a campaign, Smalls described Tillman as "the personification of red-shirt Democracy" and the "arch-enemy of my race." The Red Shirts were violent, blocked polling for blacks and republicans and sadly, had some political clout at that time.
His career accomplishments included being one of the writers for the 1868 state constitution for South Carolina, creating state legislation that created the first free public school system in the United States; he founded the "Republican Party of South Carolina," and also convinced President Lincoln to allow African-American soldiers into the Union army.
Robert Smalls, American hero, stated
"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,"
a wonderful sentiment and a testimony to Smalls, who fought for his freedom, the freedom of African-Americans and bravely for the United States.
See a trailer for the documentary here: