February is designated Black History Month. We in Beaufort County have a particularly good reason to participate.
Here in our collective backyard we have a Black American Hero who deserves continual affirmation. Our own Robert Smalls, who went from slavery to being a US Congressman, as well as representing Beaufort in the legislature in Columbia at times in both the House and the Senate.
“A native of Beaufort, SC, Congressman Smalls was born into slavery but- through acts of remarkable courage and determination-became the first African American hero of the Civil War and one of the most influential African American politicians in South Carolina history,” as written by H-Net Reviews.
In 1862, slave Smalls and his slave crew commandeered the Confederate vessel, Planter, sailed it from Charleston, right under the noses of Confederate defenses and delivered it to the Union blockade. Its cargo was scarce cannons from Rebel fortifications much needed by the Confederacy for the defense of Charleston. Their bravery and the story are worthy of a full-length motion picture.
He was subsequently appointed Captain and participated in military campaigns along the South Carolina coast and eventually named Captain of the refurbished Planter as a US Navy ship.
His military achievements were parlayed into post-Civil War leadership roles including his appointment as Collector of the Port of Charleston until the political appointment was transferred to another political appointee by President Woodrow Wilson.
Of certain pride for the Beaufort County Republican Party is the creation of the Robert Smalls Award awarded to outstanding leadership to our community. Last year’s recipient was Senator Tim Scott, who himself is a remarkable local achiever and will leave his mark in our history.
By the way, Robert Smalls is generally credited as being the founder the Beaufort County REPUBLICAN Party. Some have even credited him as a founder of the State Republican Party.
Vice-Chairman of the BCRP
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