By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare

Robert Smalls was born into the harsh and inhuman system of slavery on april 5, 1839, owned by Henry Mckee. He grew up in Beaufort, South Carolina and was heavily influenced by his mother, Lydia Polite’s Gullah culture and heritage.

As an adolescent, Smalls’ master had him hired out as a laborer, hotel worker and lamplighter for the streets of Charleston.

Smalls would go on to perform work as a dockworker, sailmaker, and wheelman, (pretty much a pilot ) but slaves were not allowed to be given the honored title of pilot.

On December 24, 1856, while still a teenager, Robert smalls married Hannah Jones, when he was 17, she was 23 and was a slave working as a maid at a hotel. She already had two kids and would go on to have two more kids with Smalls, unfortunately for the couple, Robert Jr., the second of their children together would die at age 2.

In the fall of 1861, Smalls was assigned to steer the css planter. A confederate military transport, that was under the command of Brigadier General Roswell S. Ripley. Their duties were to deliver troops and supplies, and to survey waterways and lay mines.

On May 12, 1862, the Planter was docked at a wharf below General Ripley’s headquarters. When the white officers left to have a night on the town, smalls and the rest of the slave crew escape to find their families, in the case of Smalls and to make their planned escape to union blockade ships.

Smalls would steer the planter safely through five Confederate harbor forts, as he gave the correct signals at the correct check points. Smalls would then head for the Union Navy Fleet, flying a white bed sheet as a surrender flag. He would surrender her cargo to the United States Navy, after escaping from slavery with his black crew.

Smalls at only 23, soon became known in the North as a hero. Newspapers reported on his exploits and the Congress passed a bill awarding Smalls and his crew prize money for the planter ship. Two weeks later Smalls would meet President Lincoln, where he would tell the president his amazing life story.

The courage of Smalls was an example that blacks were capable of fighting in the military. In August 1862, Smalls visited Washington D.C to convince President Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to allow black men to fight for the Union Army. He was successful and Stanton signed an order permitting up to 5,000 African-Americans to enlist in the Union Forces at Port Royal, Smalls would go on to serve as a pilot for the Union Navy.

In 1863, Smalls became the first black captain of a vessel of the United States. On December 1, the Planter (now part of the Union Navy) was caught in heavy confederate fire, the ship’s Commander, Captain Nickerson, decided to surrender to enemy forces, but Smalls refused to give up, fearing that escape slaves would be killed. Smalls would take control of the ship from Nickerson and pilot the planter out of Confederate gun range. For displaying such valor, smalls was named to replace Nickerson as the Planter’s Captain.

Soon after the war, Smalls returned to his hometown of Beaufort, where he would buy the home of his former master, his mother would live with him the remainder of his life.

In 1866, Smalls went into business with Richard Howell Gleaves, a businessman from Philadelphia, they opened a store to serve the needs of former slaves.

In 1868, Smalls served as a delegate in the South Carolina Constitutional Convention, where he took part in an effort to make compulsory school free for all children.

During the reconstruction era, Smalls served as the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1865 to 1870, later he would serve in the South Carolina State Senate between 1871 and 1874, Smalls would also bravely in the South Carolina militia until 1877, where he served a brief stint as its commander with the rank of Major General.

Smalls would be elected to the United States House of Representatives, where he served two terms from 1875 to 1879 and from 1882 to 1883 he represented South Carolina’s 5th Congressional district in the house.

After the compromise of 1877, the U.S. government withdrew its remaining forces from South Carolina and other southern states. White conservatives who called themselves the “Redeemers” resorted to violent tactics and election fraud to regain control of the state legislature, as an effort to reduce the power of the African-American community, Smalls was arrested and convicted on bribery, he was pardoned as part of an agreement by which charges would be dropped for Democrats accused of election fraud.

After his pardon, Smalls would get back into politics, he became a delegate to the 1895 South Carolina Constitutional Convention, with five other African-American politicians, he strongly opposed white Democrat efforts that year to disenfranchise black citizens.

Smalls would go on to serve as the U.S. Collector of Customs in Beaufort, serving from 1889 to 1911, after being appointed by the Republican National administration.

Smalls would die of malaria and diabetes in 1915, he was 75.

The legacy of Robert Smalls :

Fort Robert Smalls was named in his honor; it was built by free blacks in 1863 on McGuire’s Hill on the South Side of Pittsburgh during the American Civil War. It survived until the 1940s.
The Robert Smalls House in Beaufort, SC, has been designated a National Historic Landmark.
A monument and statue are dedicated to his memory where he is interred at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Beaufort.
During World War II, Camp Robert Smalls was established as a sub-facility of the Great Lakes Naval Training Center to train black sailors (the Navy was segregated in those years).
The desk that Smalls used as Collector of Customs is on display at the Verdier House museum in Beaufort.
In 2004, the U.S. named a ship for Robert Smalls. It is USAV Major General Robert Smalls (LSV-8), a Kuroda class logistics support vessel operated by the U.S. Army. It is the first Army ship named after an African American.
An exhibit at the U.S. Army Transportation Museum is dedicated to Robert Smalls’ contribution to the US Army.
Charleston held commemorative ceremonies in 2012 on the 150th anniversary of Robert Smalls’ escape on the Planter, with special programs on May 12 and 13.
The Oregon Civil War Sesquicentennial presented a special 150th Anniversary program on May 16, 2012 at the Kenton Public Library branch in Portland, honoring Robert Smalls’ epic voyage to freedom and his contributions to society.
Robert Smalls Parkway is a five-mile section of South Carolina Highway 170 that crosses Port Royal Island and leads into Beaufort.

Notes from Wikipedia.

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By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare

Walter Anthony Rodney was born on March 23, 1942 in British Guiana.
Rodney came from a working-class family and he was encouraged to strive for educational greatness and was considered a very bright student. He would eventually attend Queens college in British Guiana (now Guyana) and was a champion debater and athlete. Rodney would eventually earn a Phd in African History in 1966 from the School of Oriental and African studies in London, England.


After college, Rodney would continue to travel internationally and would soon become well-known as an activist, orator and scholar.

Rodney would go on to teach in Tanzania, Africa, at the University of Dar es Salaam, from 1966-67 and later in UWI Mona in Jamaica.

He was a harsh critic of the middle-class and their role in post-Independence Caribbean nations, and argued against capitalism and argued for socialist development.

Because of his advocacy for the working poor, that created public awareness and caused some riots to breakout, costing millions of dollars in damage to public property and according to the government, resulted in the death of several people, Rodney was banned from returning to Jamaica by the Jamaican government.

Rodney would soon return to the University of Dar es Salaam from 1969-74, as a history professor.


Rodney would become an influential Pan-Africanist and played a big role in the Black Power movement in the Caribbean and North America.

In 1974 Rodney returned to his native country of Guyana from Tanzania, Africa. Where he intended to get a professor position at the University of Guyana, but because of his political activism, he was denied a professor job because of government objection . Soon afterwards, Rodney would found his own political party, the Working People’s Alliance, a party that would quickly become a legitimate threat to Guyana’s government, that was controlled by the PNC party.

In 1979 Rodney would be arrested by the government and accused of arson on two government buildings.

On June 1980, Walter Rodney would be assassinated, when a car bomb exploded when he got into his car, after returning to Guyana from a independence celebration in Zimbabwe.

Rodney was only 38, it is believed but still has not been proven that Rodney’s assassination was set-up by then president of Guyana, Linden Forbes Burnham.

Video on Walter Rodney

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The black Seminoles are the descendants of both free blacks and escaped slaves, known as the Maroon people. They are black Indians, mostly associated with the Seminole Native Americans of Florida and Oklahoma, but there are members living in Texas, the Bahamas and Mexico.

The black Seminoles lived in their own groups, called freedman bands, that were closely associated with the Seminole Nation.


The Black Seminoles and the Native Seminole people united in both of the Seminole wars.


Today the two Freedmen bands of the Black Seminoles; the Caesar Bruner Band and Dosar Barkus Band are represented on the General Council of the Seminole Nation.

Despite being on the General Council of the Nation, as a collective Black Seminoles still deal with racial discrimination from the Native Americans of the Seminole Nation.

Since the 1930’s many black Seminoles have had to deal with being excluded from the tribe.

In 2000, approximately twelve hundred Black Seminoles were excluded from the tribe they were previously members of.





Timbuktu (pron.: /ˌtɪmbʌkˈtuː/), also spelled as Tinbuktu, Timbuctoo and Timbuktoo (Tamazight:ⵜⵉⵏⴱⵓⴽⵜⵓ (Tinbuktu); French: Tombouctou; Koyra Chiini: Tumbutu), is a historical and still-inhabited city in the West African nation of Mali, situated 20 km (12 mi) north of the River Niger on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert. The town is the capital of the Timbuktu Region, one of the eight administrative regions of Mali. It had a population of 54,453 in the 2009 census.

Starting out as a seasonal settlement, Timbuktu became a permanent settlement early in the 12th century. After a shift in trading routes, Timbuktu flourished from the trade in salt, gold, ivory and slaves. It became part of the Mali Empire early in the 14th century. In the first half of the 15th century the Tuareg tribes took control of the city for a short period until the expanding Songhai Empire absorbed the city in 1468. A Moroccan army defeated the Songhai in 1591, and made Timbuktu, rather than Gao, their capital.

The invaders established a new ruling class, the Arma, who after 1612 became virtually independent of Morocco. However, the golden age of the city was over, during which it was a major learning and cultural center of the Mali empire, and it entered a long period of decline. Different tribes governed until the French took over in 1893, a situation that lasted until it became part of the current Republic of Mali in 1960. Presently, Timbuktu is impoverished and suffers from desertification.

In its Golden Age, the town’s numerous Islamic scholars and extensive trading network made possible an important book trade: together with the campuses of the Sankore Madrasah, an Islamic university, this established Timbuktu as a scholarly centre in Africa. Several notable historic writers, such as Shabeni and Leo Africanus, have described Timbuktu. These stories fueled speculation in Europe, where the city’s reputation shifted from being extremely rich to being mysterious. This reputation overshadows the town itself in modern times, to the point where it is best known in Western culture as an expression for a distant or outlandish place. Timbuktu was also renowned for being the living quarters of Mansa Musa.









Nat Turner was born into slavery in Southampton County, Virginia on October 2, 1800.

Turner spent his whole life in Southampton County, Virginia, a area where slaves were the majority of the people living in the area. As a young kid he learned to read and write.

Turner was known to be an extremely religious man, who was known to fast, read the bible and pray. Known as the “Prophet” by fellow slaves, Turner performed baptist religious services for his brethren in bondage. Turner’s faith in the almighty was so intense, that he had visions that he considered to be messages from God, that he was ordained for some kind of holy mission.

Turner would soon start to believe that mission was for him to start a slave rebellion and free his people, like many biblical figures, he read about. Turner believed his rebellion would be the battle between God’s kingdom and the anti-kingdom.

In February 1831, Turner believed that some of the atmospheric conditions occurring at the time to be signs from God, telling him to prepare for rebellion against the slave owning white population.

On the 11th of February 1831, a solar eclipse occurred in Virginia, and Turner envisioned this as a black man reaching over the sun. Turner originally planned for his rebellion to be on the slave owning, white man’s independence of July 4, but illness forced him to delay, so he took the time to do more preparation with his co-conspirators.

On August 13, there was another solar eclipse,Turner believed this to be the final signal and a week later,on August 21, he and his co-conspirators would begin the slave uprising.


Turner’s first recruits were enslaved blacks from his area, Turner and his rebels went plantation to plantation, freeing enslaved blacks and killing their white masters. Over 70 free blacks would also join Turner’s rebellion. So that they did not alert anyone, the Turner rebels did not use firearms, instead they used blunt objects, knives, axes and hatchets to exterminate their white supremacist oppressors.

Turner’s rebellion killed approximately 60 white people, before a white militia was able to respond to the uprising. With the help of the federal government, the rebellion was quelled in two days.


Turner would evade capture for two months, by hiding in the woods. On October 30, Turner was discovered hiding in a covered hole, by Benjamin Phipps, a local farmer.

While awaiting trial, Turner would confess his knowledge of the slave uprising to his attorney Thomas Ruffin Gray.

On November 5, 1831 Turner was put on trial and convicted of “Conspiring to rebel and making insurrection “, he would be given the death sentence.

On November 11, in Jerusalem, Virginia, Turner would be skinned, beheaded and chopped up in many pieces, he would receive no formal burial. Many of his co-conspirators would receive a similar fate. In the end approximately 60 white people would die and 200 black people.