COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A bipartisan pair of South Carolina State Senators are proposing a new monument for the State House grounds that would honor a Union African-American Navy officer from the Palmetto State.
Senator Greg Gregory (R-Lancaster) and Senator Darrell Jackson (D-Richland) say the violence in Charlottesville last month during a white supremacist rally that turned deadly pushed them to find a positive way forward after cities across the U.S. began removing Confederate monuments.
The subject of the monument, Robert Smalls, was a boat pilot hired out by his master to sail ships from the harbor in Charleston. On May 13, 1862, at the age of 23, he commandeered the Confederate steamer The Planter, ran a gauntlet of heavy fortifications in the Charleston Harbor, and sailed to freedom along with his family and several others.
Smalls turned The Planter over to the federal Navy and was later assigned to captain the steamer during the Civil War.
Smalls also was elected to the SC House of Representatives and later to the SC Senate. He also served five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Michael B. Moore, the great-great-grandson of Robert Smalls, was at today's press conference.
"It's important for all Americans to understand the contributions that African-Americans made in building this state, building the Lowcountry, building the country. I think it tells the broader message that no matter who you are, no matter what's your background, no matter your color, your race, your sexual orientation, perhaps – other things – that you can do great things and you can be acknowledged in this state for doing that," Smalls said.