He was born into slavery, but was damned if he and his family would die in it. In the midst of the Civil War in 1862, Robert Smalls finally found a small window of escape. He'd been "leased out" by his master in Charleston, SC, working the docks and finally earning the right to pilot the CSS Planter
, a Confederate military ship. One night, the crew of the Planter
spent the night on shore, leaving the ship completely empty. Smalls jumped at the opportunity. Dressed like the Planter's
captain, he brought his family and friends on board and sailed off into the night. Having studied the Confederate security procedures for months while working as the ship's pilot, he knew all the right hand signals and safely made it past the rebel warships. The dupe a success, he sailed out to the Union blockade and freedom. Later in life, Smalls solidified his rank of manly badass by becoming a U.S. Representative, firmly turning the tables on injustice.
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