Robert Smalls was a former slave and Civil War hero who made a significant impact on American history. Born into slavery in Beaufort, South Carolina in 1839, Smalls worked on the docks and was trained as a sailor.
In 1862, he commandeered a Confederate transport ship, the Planter, and sailed it to freedom with his family and other enslaved people on board. He then turned the ship over to the Union navy and became one of the first African American captains in the U.S. Navy.
Smalls later served as a South Carolina state legislator and a U.S. Congressman, fighting for voting rights and education for African Americans. He was a powerful voice for equality and civil rights, and his legacy continues to inspire today.