This weekend we begin to make amends for a century of lost history. A two-day observance of Robert Smalls' life and work will be held in Charleston, marking the 150th anniversary of his heroic feat aboard the Planter. A historic marker will be placed on the Battery near the spot where Smalls seized the boat. It will be one of the few historical markers in the Holy City dedicated to an African American.
On the night of May 13, 1862, slave and harbor pilot Robert Smalls and a crew of slaves commandeered the Confederate steam transport CSS Planter in Charleston Harbor while its officers were ashore.
He was named captain of the Planter â€” the first African American to command a U.S. warship â€” and fought in 17 engagements with Confederate forces.
After the war, Smalls was elected to the General Assembly, where he helped draft the S.C. Constitution of 1868, creating the first public education system in the state. He was later elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served intermittently until 1886. However, in 1895, all of that progress was erased.