Make May 13th Robert Smalls Day In Charleston, SC
Robert Smalls was born in Beaufort in 1839, the son of a house slave named Lidia Polite. When Robert was 12 years old he was moved to Charleston and hired out at the Planters Hotel by his master Henry McKee. By 17 Robert was married to Hannah Jones, a wash woman, who worked at the Hotel as well. They would have two children together. Robert ended up working on board a side wheel steamer, cotton ship called The Planter. He was the wheel man for Captain James Ferguson. During the Civil War the ship was leased to the Confederate Navy. Robert stayed on as the wheel man. Wanting his wife and children to be free, Robert and several other enslaved African Americans stole The Planter in the early morning of May 13, 1862. Robert surrendered the ship to the US Navy and was offered the job as the civilian pilot as the ship was commissioned into service for the US. He would eventually rise to the rank of captain. After the war Robert served in the South Carolina State legislature. In 1868 he was a delegate to the South Carolina Constitutional Convention. In 1884 He was sworn in to his first of five terms as a US Congressman. I consider Robert Smalls the greatest person in American history. He doesn't get the recognition that he deserves, just a couple of historical markers in Charleston. I want to petition the Mayor of Charleston to proclaim May 13th Robert Smalls Day. That is the day he commandeered the Planter and drove it out of the Charleston Harbor to freedom.