From staff reports
The Beaufort Republican Women held a “unity celebration” on Monday, April 5 on the grounds of Tabernacle Baptist Church honoring slave-turned-U.S. Congressman Robert Smalls on the day of his birthday. Smalls is buried on church grounds with other members of his family.
Smalls, born a slave April 5, 1839 in Beaufort, commandeered a Confederate ship – the CSS Planter – during the Civil War and sailed it from Charleston harbor to the U.S. Naval blockade, freeing himself, his crew and their families.
He helped convince President Abraham Lincoln to accept African-American soldiers into the Union Army.
Smalls returned to Beaufort after the Civil War and was elected to the South Carolina Legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives during Reconstruction. He founded the S.C. Republican Party and wrote the legislation providing for South Carolina to have the first free and compulsory public school system in the United States.
Above: The Beaufort Republican Women held a celebration on Monday, April 5 on the grounds of Tabernacle Baptist Church honoring slave-turned-U.S. Congressman Robert Smalls on the day of his birthday. Photo by Bob Sofaly.