Open Letter To The Pro-Life Movement
Congressman Robert Smalls [R-SC5 and SC7]
Meet The First Black Captain Of A Vessel In The Service Of The United States …
Robert Smalls (Friday, April 5th, 1839 – Tuesday, February 23rd, 1915) was a Black American slave who, during and after the American Civil War, became a ship’s pilot, sea captain, and politician. He freed himself, his crew and their families from slavery on Tuesday, May 13th, 1862, by commandeering a Confederate transport ship, the CSS Planter (a “wood-burner” launched in 1860), in the Charleston, South Carolina harbor, and sailing it to freedom beyond the Union Army’s blockade. As one of the first Black Americans to serve in the United States Congress, all of whom were Republicans during the Reconstruction Era, Smalls authored legislation that created the first free and compulsory public school system in America in South Carolina, founded the Republican Party of South Carolina,1 and with Frederick Douglass successfully convinced President Abraham Lincoln to accept Black Americans as soldiers in the Union army.2 Most notably, Smalls was the first and last Republican to represent South Carolina until Republican Tim Scott became the first Black United States Congressman and now United States Senator to represent South Carolina since Reconstruction after the Civil War. 3
Slave, Husband, Father and Freeman
“After waiting apparently in vain, for many years for our deliverance, a party consisting of nine (9) men, myself included, of the City of Charleston, conferred freedom on ourselves, five (5) women and three (3) children; and to the Government of the United States we gave the Planter, a gunboat which cost nearly thirty thousand dollars ($30,000), together with six (6) large guns, from a twenty-four (24) pounder howitzer to a hundred (100) pound Parrott rifle. We are all now in the service of the navy, under the command of our true friend, Rear Admiral Dupont, where we wish to serve till the Rebellion and Slavery are alike crushed out forever.” 4 — Robert Smalls, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, August 27th, 1862.
Born into slavery in the “Dependency House” (i.e., a cabin behind the house of his master Admiral Henry McKee on 511 Prince Street in Beaufort, South Carolina) Robert Smalls received a sense of pride, self worth, dignity from his mother, Lydia Polite (who was also a slave held by McKee) and a set of skills from his owner.5 Instead of sending Robert out to the slave fields, when Robert was twelve (12) years old McKee sent him to his sister-in-law in Charleston where he would be hired out to work in the city.6 Hiring a slave’s time out to other persons in the city was simply another form of slavery that allowed the owner of the slave to profit from the slave’s labor. Here Robert would learn new skills and eventually find work on the docks. By 1854 Robert was fifteen (15) years old and earning fifteen dollars ($15.00) a month which belonged to Mckee who in turn would allow Robert to keep one dollar ($1.00).7 With his one dollar ($1.00) Robert would purchase things like tobacco and candy and then sell it on the docks.8 As a young man Robert had learned to start a business and save his money. By 1856 Robert would meet a hotel maid named Hannah Jones and marry her.9 By 1858 Hannah and Robert had their first child, Elizabeth Lydia.10 Understanding that Hannah was being physically abused by her master and could be sold, Smalls attempted to buy his family’s freedom with the money he saved. However, Hannah’s freedom would cost him eight hundred dollars ($800.00) and because he only had one hundred ($100.00) to his name, escaping to the North was Smalls’ only option to save his family and the clock was running.11 By 1860 the tensions between the North and the South over the future of labor (paid-labor versus slave-labor) were so heated that the secession of states was more than a possibility, it was imminent and South Carolina was at the heart of it all.12 By 1861 Southern slave states declared their secession from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America (CSA) and the American Civil War was on.13 By 1862 Robert Smalls was a twenty–three (23) year old illiterate slave in the employ of Confederate Commander Brigadier General Roswell S. Ripley who commanded the CSS Planter.14 The Planter was a three hundred (300) ton side wheel steamship, built for commercial purposes, but during the Civil War served the Confederate Army as a heavily armed transport and dispatch vessel.15 Early on the morning of Tuesday, May 13th, 1862, the Confederate commander at Charleston, South Carolina, Brigadier General Roswell S. Ripley, was astounded to learn his dispatch boat, stationed at a wharf directly in front of his headquarters, had disappeared.16 Dressed as the Planter Captain C. J. Relyea,17 familiar with the waters and where the mines were, because as a slave he had laid them himself,18 Robert Smalls used the correct signals for safe passage through the five (5) Confederate gun batteries including Fort Sumter and boldly sailed and surrendered the CSS Planter to Union forces currently blockading the ports.19 In so doing Smalls freed himself, his wife, two children, and twelve other slaves by approximately 4:30 A.M. that morning.20
“As soon as the officers [on the Planter] were gone, Smalls and his fellows consulted and all agreed: the time had come. Word was sent to the sailor on the other boat and to the women and children: Proceed. Quietly, on the Planter, Smalls broke into the cabin to secure the captain’s straw hat and jacket and any small arms he could find. It was firmly understood among the conspirators that if they met with any interference they would resist and, if it came to that, rather than suffer capture, they would sink the Planter and all aboard. If scuttling failed, they ‘would all take hands … and jump overboard and perish together.'” 22
The First Black American Civil War Hero
“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.” 23 — Robert Smalls
As a result of the fame that came from Robert Smalls’ daring theft of the CSS Planter, he was awarded an audience with President Abraham Lincoln where he sat at the conference table next to Frederick Douglass in an effort to convince President Abraham Lincoln to enlist Black men to fight for the Union forces in the Civil War. Smalls and Douglass helped recruit nearly 5,000 Black American men for the Union army.24 Smalls boldly backed his beliefs by fighting the Confederate Army as a pilot on the now USS Planter (the ship that he had commandeered to freedom) in the fall of 1862. As a solider, Smalls led the Union Navy efforts to deactivate mines that he had helped plant while enslaved by the Confederacy and then guided the Union forces to Confederate outposts and assisted in the destruction of railroad bridges in the harbor area.25 By 1863 Smalls piloted the USS Keokuk (i.e., one of the Casemate Ironclad gunships) in the Union attack on Fort Sumter. The attack failed miserably.26 Understanding former slaves were traitors to the Confederacy and would be executed without question, Smalls took command of the ship from the surrendering Captain James Nickerson (who was hiding in a coal bunker below deck), navigated it out of harm’s way and rescued the crew just minutes before the USS Keokuk sank.27 Nickerson was dismissed as a coward and Smalls became the first Black Navy Captain in the service of the United States.28 By 1865 Smalls would return to Fort Sumter with the USS Planter to witness the Union’s “Stars and Stripes” raised marking the defeat of the Confederate Army and the end of the Civil War. As the first hero of the Civil War declared by the United States Congress, Robert Smalls would later be appointed to the rank of Major General in the South Carolina Militia during the Reconstruction period.29
Serving in the United States Congress
Representing South Carolina’s 5th and 7th Districts
“The party of Lincoln which unshackled the necks of four million human beings.” In his campaign speeches he said, “Every colored man who has a vote to cast, would cast that vote for the regular Republican Party and thus bury the Democratic Party so deep that there will not be seen even a bubble coming from the spot where the burial took place.” Later in life he recalled, “I can never loose [sic] sight of the fact that had it not been for the Republican Party, I would have never been an office-holder of any kind from 1862 to present.” 30 — Robert Smalls
Robert Smalls founded the Republican Party of South Carolina, served in the South Carolina House and Senate from 1865 to 1874, was a delegate to the South Carolina Constitutional Convention in 1868 and served in Congress off and on from 1875 to 1887.31 The gap in Smalls congressional service took place after the Compromise of 1877 when Republican President Rutherford Birchard Hayes withdrew Union troops from the south 32 and was due to false accusations that he took a $5,000.00 bribe in connection with the award of a printing contract in January of 1873 while serving as a state senator.33 Due to the “the uncorroborated testimony of an admitted felon” who was testifying to save his own hide, 34 Smalls was arrested at home on Saturday, October 6th, 1877, 35 found guilty and sentenced to three (3) years of hard labor.36 In the absence of Union troops, racists Southern White Democrats called the “Redeemers” (i.e., members of the Klu Klux Klan who wanted to return the state to its pre-war status of white supremacy) used violence and election fraud to regain control in the state legislature.37 Ultimately Smalls fought back and was pardoned by South Carolina Governor William Simpson.38 As part of the agreement that pardoned Smalls, charges were also dropped against the Democrats who had been accused of election fraud.39 Having regained his congressional seat, Smalls continued to fight to protect the civil rights of Black Americans, promote their representation and participation in state politics and move forward legislation for a public school system in South Carolina.40
Robert Smalls Was Concerned About The U.S. Navy
” [ Robert ] Smalls told Samuel Francis Du Pont, commander of the U.S. Navy’s South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, that he worried more about the U.S. Navy shooting at Planter than the Confederates.” 48
Rear Admiral Samuel Francis Du Pont Was A True Friend
“One of the coolest and most gallant naval acts of war.” 49 — Samuel Francis duPont
“The bringing out of this steamer would have done credit to anyone … This man Robert Smalls is superior to any who has yet come into lines, intelligent as many of them have been. His information has been most interesting, and portions of it of the utmost importance.” 50
— Samuel Francis duPont
Samuel Francis Du Pont was a direct descendent of Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours. His uncle was Eleuthère Irénée du Pont, the founder of E.I. du Pont de Nemours Company, which today is the multinational DuPont chemical corporation.51 During the American Civil War, DuPont was one of the chief suppliers of black powder to the United States military.52 According to the Hagley Museum & Library exhibition entitled: “An Oath of Allegiance to the Republic: The du Ponts and the Civil War,” Flag Officer Samuel Francis Du Pont at Port Royal praised Smalls for his heroism and promised to take care of him, his family and his crew.53 Being a man of his word and in need of Robert’s extensive knowledge of the waters around Charleston and the Confederate military signals and approaches,54 Du Pont not only took care of the nine (9) crew members, five (5) women and three (3) children on the Planter by helping them get settled in Union occupied territory near Port Royal, South Carolina, he then made Robert the pilot of his flagship, USS Wabash.55 As the relationship between Smalls and DuPont grew, DuPont lobbied for Robert and his crew. On Friday May 30th, 1862, the United States Congress passed an act for the relief of Robert Smalls and the Planter crew. This legislation directed the Navy Department to appraise the steamer and its cargo and pay them one half of the value. Du Pont was charged with obtaining the appraisal and dividing out the money. The Planter and her cargo was valued at $9,168.00, leaving $4,584.00 for Smalls and his crew. As architect of the Planter’s rebellion and ranking member of the slave crew, Robert received $1,500.00 and the rest was split among the crew and their families.56 In the month of June 1862, Rear Admiral DuPont appointed Smalls as his personal representative to oversee a program designed to help former slaves successfully work on the land abandoned by slave plantation owners called the “Port Royal Experiment“.57 Because Smalls spoke both Gullah and “regular” English and he understood the views of both Blacks and Whites, he was needed to meet with and facilitate the efforts of private Northern charity organizations stepping in to help the former slaves become self-sufficient.58 Smalls was so successful, that on Wednesday, August 20th, 1862, at the request of Major General David Hunter, Smalls met with United States Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. A few days later Smalls, Hunter and Stanton met with President Abraham Lincoln.59 Thank you Rear Admiral Samuel Francis Du Pont, the “Port Royal Experiment” was indeed a rehearsal for reconstruction and Robert Smalls was the right man for the job. By Monday, August 25th, 1862 Secretary of War Edwin Stanton authorized the enlistment of Black troops into the Federal Army.60 By declaration on Wednesday, May 10th, 1865 the American Civil War ended 61 and then Democratic President Andrew Johnson ended the “Port Royal Experiment” by returning the land to its previous White owners.62
Open Letter To The Pro-Life Movement
2013 Marks The 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade
“I will go, and where you die, I will die.” — Hannah Smalls 63
“How can I expect to keep my freedom if I’m not willing to pay for it?” — Robert Smalls 64
We’re in the fortieth (40) year of legalized abortion in the United States of America. At this point, we’ve lost over fifty-six (56) million lives to surgical abortion on demand alone and counting.65 The enormous impact of fifty-six (56) million lives lost to abortion on demand, is equivalent to the population of our eighty-two (82) largest cities,66 from New York all the way down to cities the size of Chandler, Arizona. To put it another way, fifty-six (56) million abortions are equal to twenty-two (22) times the human lives lost from ALL the wars America has ever fought (from the American Revolutionary War in 1775 to the Iraq and Afghanistan War today).67 Further still, the toll includes some eighteen (18) million Black American babies 68 and thirty-seven (37) million others. Honestly, that’s about 3,796 times as many Black Americans as were lynched since the American Civil War.69 All this adds up to a 30% loss in the younger generation under age forty-five (45). These numbers amount to a holocaust against Blacks and against the young. Without question, this is the greatest loss ever inflicted on any generation in the history of our country. Could it be, that now is the time to take a page from Rear Admiral Samuel Francis Du Pont and seriously invest in communities of color to end abortion on demand? Could it be, that with Black and Hispanic Americans representing the number one (1) and number two (2) customers of the Abortion Industrial Complex 70,71 now is the time to lead with color? Could it be, that because communities of color speak the language and understand the views of both the franchised and disenfranchised, they hold the key to the reconciliation of a country split evenly over the issue? Could it be, that because communities of color have been both courted and targeted by BIG Abortion, like Robert Smalls we have extensive knowledge of the dangers in the waters of life and understand the signals and approaches needed to safely navigate the way to victory over abortion on demand in America? Could it be, that just as Republican President Rutherford Birchard Hayes compromised in 1877 and Democratic President Andrew Johnson scuttled the “Port Royal Experiment“, the solution to the problems that perplex the Pro-Life movement isn’t political? Could it be, that after forty (40) years of legally protected abortion on demand in America combined with the loss of over fifty-six (56) million lives with thirty (30) percent of those babies being Black Americans, it’s now clear that like Robert Smalls, Pro-Life leaders in communities of color will have to commandeer the Pro-Life movement’s ship and rescue our people? Could it be, that at the rate Black America is aborting her children,72 that at the rate her children are being born to unwed mothers,73 that at the rate her children acquire STDs,74 that at the rate her children account for the people living with HIV in the United States,75 that at the rate her children in High School are below basic proficiency in math,76 that at the rate her children are being incarcerated,77 that time is running out on her future? Could it be, that like Hannah Smalls “I will go, and where [ my people will ] die, I will die trying to reach them for Christ’s sake?”
I think it could.
Brothers, we need to talk.
01. Robert Smalls, Wikipedia (http://bit.ly/7lSdB7).
02. Avis Thomas-Lester, “Civil War hero Robert Smalls Seized The Opportunity To Be Free”, The Washington Post (http://bit.ly/YfCtec).
03. Joel Allen, “”Scott Sworn In As 1st Black Republican in Congress From The Deep South Since reconstruction”, CarolinaLive.Com, WPDE News Channel 15 (http://1.usa.gov/S3TKnv).
04. Robert Smalls, “Letter From The Negro Robert Smalls”, The Washington Repuplican (http://bit.ly/16ZMaQz) or (http://bit.ly/12ygyhd).
05. Robert Smalls, Wikipedia (http://bit.ly/7lSdB7).
07. Dennis Adams, “Robert Smalls War Hero And Legislator (1839-1915)” (http://bit.ly/9MqIcI).
08. Public Broadcasting System (PBS), Slavery And The Making Of America – Episode 4: “The Challenge of Freedom” (http://to.pbs.org/12d6wSO).
09. Robert Smalls, Wikipedia (http://bit.ly/7lSdB7).
11. The Robert Smalls Collection, “Who Was Congressman Robert Smalls? (1839-1915): The Early Years” (http://bit.ly/RwMGBs).
12. Public Broadcasting System (PBS), Slavery And The Making Of America – Episode 4: “The Challenge of Freedom” (http://to.pbs.org/12d6wSO).
13. Confederate States of America, Wikipedia (http://bit.ly/TFxeY).
14. USS Planter (1862), Wikipedia (http://bit.ly/1bixAqx).
18. History Revived, “Smalls’ Contributions” (http://bit.ly/16joe8v).
19. Robert Smalls, Wikipedia (http://bit.ly/7lSdB7).
21. Howard Westwood, “Black Troops, White Commanders And Freedmen During The Civil War”, SIU Press, October 1st, 1991, p.74 (http://bit.ly/12ddveD).
23. Robert Smalls Annual Lecture Series, The University of South Carolina African American Studies Program, 2012 Lecturer (http://bit.ly/16jsyEA).
24. The Robert Smalls Collection, “Who Was Congressman Robert Smalls?: Smalls During The Civil War” (http://bit.ly/18486OM).
27. Michael Canaan, “05/13/1862 – Robert Smalls Comandeers His Way to Freedom and Greatness”, BlackHistory.Com (http://bit.ly/1a6MTBj).
28. Robert Smalls, Wikipedia (http://bit.ly/7lSdB7).
29. Andrew Billingsley, “Yearning to Breathe Free: Robert Smalls of South Carolina and His Families”, University of South Carolina Press, 2007, p. 1 (http://bit.ly/12SZS32).
30. Robert Smalls, Wikipedia (http://bit.ly/7lSdB7).
32. Walter Hoye, “Environmental Products (4): The Compromise of 1877: The Republican Party Preferred Power”, Issue No.: 2012.149 (http://bit.ly/K13YAe).
33. African American Registry, “Naval Hero And Politician, Robert Smalls”, Date: Friday, April 5th, 1839 (http://bit.ly/HnurI7).
34. Andrew Billingsley, “Yearning to Breathe Free: Robert Smalls of South Carolina and His Families”, University of South Carolina Press, 2007, p. 147 (http://bit.ly/12U2WjG).
35. Andrew Billingsley, “Yearning to Breathe Free: Robert Smalls of South Carolina and His Families”, University of South Carolina Press, 2007, p. 142 (http://bit.ly/1bjzoQg).
36. Andrew Billingsley, “Yearning to Breathe Free: Robert Smalls of South Carolina and His Families”, University of South Carolina Press, 2007, P. 132 (http://bit.ly/15sciUO).
37. Redeemers, Wikipedia (http://bit.ly/1WW9bS).
38. The Robert Smalls Collection, “Who Was Congressman Robert Smalls?: Reconstruction and Smalls’ Political Career” (http://bit.ly/12zyjNo).
39. Eric Foner, “Freedom’s Lawmakers: A Directory of Black Officeholders During Reconstruction” Oxford University Press, 1993, p. 198. (http://bit.ly/184Zd7I).
40. The Robert Smalls Collection, “Who Was Congressman Robert Smalls?: Reconstruction and Smalls’ Political Career” (http://bit.ly/12zyjNo).
41. Benjamin Tillman, Wikipedia (http://bit.ly/aJFC4c).
42. Fox Butterfield, “All God’s Children: The Bosket Family and the American Tradition of Violence” (http://bit.ly/10K8IDM).
43. The Robert Smalls Collection, “Who Was Congressman Robert Smalls?: Robert Smalls at the 1895 South Carolina Constitutional Convention” (http://bit.ly/12zyjNo).
44. Mark Yost, “From Slave to Statesman”, Wall Street Journal, May 9, 2012 (http://on.wsj.com/Jwa9gw).
45. The Robert Smalls Collection, “Who Was Congressman Robert Smalls?: Robert Smalls During the Latter Years” (http://bit.ly/14FlyUu).
46. Dennis Adams, “Robert Smalls War Hero And Legislator (1839-1915)” (http://bit.ly/9MqIcI).
47. Ben Tillman Statue, Wikipedia (http://bit.ly/12A694S).
48. Hagley Museum & Library, “The duPonts And The Civil War”, Robert Smalls: Freedom (http://bit.ly/13y6oUg).
49. Howard Westwood, “Black Troops, White Commanders And Freedmen During The Civil War”, SIU Press, September 9th, 2008, p.74 (http://bit.ly/12A7d8H).
50. Andrew Billingsley, “Yearning to Breathe Free: Robert Smalls of South Carolina and His Families”, University of South Carolina Press, 2007, p. 60 (http://bit.ly/15sPBjf).
51. Samuel Francis Du Pont, Wikipedia (http://bit.ly/12A7WXo).
52. DuPont, “1804 Black Powder” (http://bit.ly/184doq6).
53. Hagley Museum & Library, “The duPonts And The Civil War”, Robert Smalls: Freedom (http://bit.ly/13y6oUg).
54. Blain Roberts and Ethan J. Kytle, “Robert Smalls’s Great Escape”, The New York Times, Saturday, May 12th, 2012 (http://nyti.ms/18L7jls) and Robert Smalls, “Service to the Union”, Wikipedia (http://bit.ly/1856ReX).
55. Hagley Museum & Library, “The duPonts And The Civil War”, Robert Smalls: Freedom (http://bit.ly/13y6oUg).
57. Andrew Billingsley, “Yearning to Breathe Free: Robert Smalls of South Carolina and His Families”, University of South Carolina Press, 2007, p. 67 (http://bit.ly/12p97b6).
58. Ibid, p. 68 (http://bit.ly/12WgKG1).
59. Blain Roberts and Ethan J. Kytle, “Robert Smalls’s Great Escape”, The New York Times, Saturday, May 12th, 2012 (http://nyti.ms/18L7jls) and Robert Smalls, “Service to the Union”, Wikipedia (http://bit.ly/1856ReX).
60. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, “Appomattox Court House: Black Soldiers on the Appomattox Campaign” (http://1.usa.gov/12jJNba).
Did You Know: “Several regiments of United States Colored Troops fought on the front line in the Battle of Appomattox Court House on the morning of April 9, 1865. Blacks served in segregated units under white officers. The U.S. Army would not be integrated until the Korean War.”
61. American Civil War, Wikipedia (http://bit.ly/BWGAf) and IMPORTANT PROCLAMATIONS, “The Belligerent Rights of the Rebels at an End. All Nations Warned Against Harboring Their Privateers. If They Do Their Ships Will be Excluded from Our Ports. Restoration of Law in the State of Virginia. The Machinery of Government to be Put in Motion There.”, The New York Times, Wednesday, May 10th, 1865 (http://nyti.ms/1dfjYL0).
62. Port Royal Experiment, Wikipedia (http://bit.ly/15bHWDM).
63. Andrew Billingsley, “Yearning to Breathe Free: Robert Smalls of South Carolina and His Families”, University of South Carolina Press, 2007, p. 65 (http://bit.ly/18Lfm1q).
64. Edward A. Miller, “Gullah Statesman: Robert Smalls from Slavery to Congress, 1839-1915”, University of South Carolina Press, 1995, p. 17 (http://bit.ly/12jNptP).
65. Dennis M. Howard, “The Abortion Index” (http://bit.ly/9FPAN1).
67. Lori Hoye, “Practicality, Pragmatism And Polls”, Thursday, March 4th, 2010 (http://bit.ly/aUt60q).
68. Dennis M. Howard, “The Abortion Index” (http://bit.ly/9FPAN1).
70. According to the Guttmacher Institute, “Facts on Induced Abortion in the United States: Who Has Abortions?”, August 2011 (http://bit.ly/12p97b6) “non-Hispanic Black women for 30%, Hispanic women for 25%” have abortions.
71. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) the most recent “Abortion Surveillance Report” of 2009 (http://1.usa.gov/T6gz7H) “non-Hispanic white women and non-Hispanic black women accounted for the largest percentages of abortions (37.7% and 35.4%, respectively).”
Please Note: That of the 52 reporting areas (the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and New York City) the above CDC report excludes data from California, Delaware, Maryland, and New Hampshire. Still further note that according to the latest information available from the Guttmacher Institute “State Facts About Abortion: California”, January 2011 (http://bit.ly/11QeYuT), California could be considered, by its sheer numbers, the nation’s Abortion Capital. For more information click here: http://bit.ly/12Wyndk.
72. Ibid., See the Guttmacher Institute report and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s above.
73. Kirsten West Savali, “72 Percent of African-American Children Born to Unwed Mothers”, HuffPost BlackVoices: By The Black Spin, Monday, November 8th 2010 (http://aol.it/9zXmYc).
74. Walter Hoye, “The Urgency Of Abstinence Education”, Monday, June 6th, 2011 (http://bit.ly/185l0Zq).
75. AIDS.Gov, HIV/AIDS 101: United States Statistics (http://1.usa.gov/MZTIWX).
76. California Department of Education, Assessment and Accountability Division, Revised: Tuesday, February 5th, 2013 (http://bit.ly/RR0BSy).
77. Prison Policy Initiative, “Incarceration Rates By Race and Ethnicity, 2010” (http://bit.ly/5j9yYI).