In 1862, Robert Smalls, an enslaved crew-member of the CSS Planter, steals the boat, sails it past the heavily armed defenses of Charleston Harbor in South Carolina and delivers it into the hands of the Union forces further out. The bold act makes Smalls a hero in the North, an outlaw throughout the Confederacy and a powerful symbol of hope and freedom to the enslaved people of the South.
Smalls was a founding member of the Republican Party in S.C. and was a delegate to the 1868 Constitutional Convention. He was elected to the S.C. House, and the S.C. Senate, and the U.S. House. In 1895, Sen. "Pitchfork" Ben Tillman, a former governor of S.C., became the ring leader of the convention that would wipe out the reforms of the 1868 Constitution. Smalls and the other five black delegates attending the Convention delivered speeches on the rights of African Americans. In the end, Tillman got what he wanted and the S.C. Constitution of 1895 was ratified. African Americans were robbed of the rights that define a true democracy.