The true story of an unsung African American hero who deserves to be remembered.
Born a slave in Beaufort, South Carolina, in 1839, Robert Smalls began working on the Charleston waterfront at 12 and convinced his master to allow him to keep some of his earnings. In 1861, Smalls became a crew member on the Planter, which transported supplies, personnel, and artillery to the Confederate forts. Eventually becoming wheelman—the crew member who steers—Smalls learned all the necessary skills for navigating the ship. One night, when the captain was on shore visiting family, Robert steered the Planter—loaded with supplies, weapons, the other enslaved crewmen and their families—out of the harbor, past the heavily armed Confederate forts Johnson and Sumter to Union-controlled waters, where the crew raised a white sheet and surrendered to the Union. “Freedom, at last.” The illustrations, primarily in browns, greens, and blues to evoke the nocturnal and maritime setting, will help readers envision the time and place of Smalls’ escape. The informative backmatter, including a photograph of Smalls, offers an overview of his life and later career as a U.S. congressman and a landowner (of his former master’s home). The glossary and bibliography identify other good sources of research on Smalls.
Ideal for piquing readers’ interest in a determined and inspiring historical figure. (Picture book/biography. 7-11)