Friday, June 19, 2020

Robert Smalls' daring escape the subject of podcast on Juneteenth

"All they need is an equal chance in the battle of life."

Posted by Connelly Hardaway on Fri, Jun 19, 2020 at 3:56 PM

  • Screenshot/Criminal Podcast
Michael Boulware Moore, one of the founders of Charleston's forthcoming International African American Museum, sat down with Criminal podcast host Phoebe Judge to discuss his great-great-grandfather Robert Smalls.

While many Charlestonians are familiar with the Smalls story (you should be, if you aren't already), Moore has an even more intimate take on the story of his bold, history making grandparents.

The Criminal podcast, for those who have not listened before, often takes on straightforward true-crime sagas, but many episodes examine the lives of people harmed by injustice, like Robert Smalls, who was born an enslaved person in 1839 in Beaufort.

On May 13, 1862, Smalls and a small crew of enslaved people took command of the Confederate ship, The Planter, and sailed out of Charleston Harbor in a bid for their freedom.

You will have to listen to the episode for some of the details Moore and Judge describe, but even after sailing himself and others to freedom, Smalls went on to have an impact in the state where he once was forced into labor.

Smalls served five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, fighting for black residents as the few rights granted during Reconstruction were stripped away by Jim Crow laws.

Near the end of his political career, Smalls is famous for saying: "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."

This quote is engraved on Smalls' grave at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Beaufort.

You can listen to the episode online now.

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