College of Arts and Sciences


Robert Smalls Annual Lecture Series

1997 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007
2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017

The University of South Carolina

presents the

2017 Lecturer

Thavolia Glymph
Wednesday, April 5, 2017

First inaugurated in 1997, this lecture series has grown from the African American Studies Program's strong sense of identification with South Carolina history and culture, both past and present.

Robert Smalls (1839-1915) was originally known as a daring hero during the Civil War.  In 1862, he delivered the Planter, a transport steamer, to Union soldiers and by April 1863, he was pilot of the ironclad USS Keokuk. On December 1, 1863, after an act of bravery under fire, Smalls became the first black captain of a vessel in the service of the United States.  After the war, he became a Major-General in the SC militia and a state legislator.

Robert Smalls
( April 5, 1839 - February 23, 1915)

"The Courage of Smalls"
A short ETV video (11min 33sec) chronicling Robert Smalls delivery of a Confederate transport steamer to Union soldiers.

Viewed as one of the most powerful black men in the state of South Carolina, he served in the 44th, 45th, 47th, and 49th Congress (1875-1879; 1881-1883; 1885-1887) representing Beaufort, South Carolina.  For nearly 20 years he served as U. S. Collector of Customs in Beaufort, S.C., where he lived and owned the house in which he had previously been a slave.

Smalls' contributions to political, economic and education reform in South Carolina were so significant  that in 1976, during the celebration of the Nation’s Bicentennial, Governor Edwards issued a proclamation setting aside February 22, 1976 as Robert Smalls Day in the entire state of South Carolina.  On September 15, 2007, the U.S. Army commissioned the first vessel in honor of an African American, the USAV Maj. General Robert Smalls, a 314-foot long, 5,412-ton transport vessel.

My Race needs no special defense,
For the past history of them in this country
Proves them to be the equal of any people anywhere,
All they need is an equal chance in the battle of life.

Robert Smalls, November 1, 1895