Robert Smalls, Part 1 | The Big Picture

In this episode, host Alex Sanders, takes a look at a South Carolina Civil War hero, Robert Smalls.

Smalls was born as an enslaved person in 1839 in Beaufort, South Carolina. In 1851, Smalls was hired out by his owner as a laborer in Charleston.  During those years, he held various jobs eventually leading to his job as a pilot aboard the Planter.  He later made a bold escape under the noses of the confederates making national headlines in the North.  Smalls was invited to the White House by Abraham Lincoln.

Robert Smalls enjoyed popularity in the predominantly black lowcountry of South Carolina and soon he became a political influence in Beaufort and South Carolina. He was elected to the House of Representatives during Reconstruction. By 1895, only a few black legislators remained in South Carolina. It was during that year that Senator "Pitchfork" Ben Tillman pushed through a plan to eradicated blacks from the political process and ensure the return of white supremacy.