time period

Civil War

The mounting tensions between slaveholding and non-slaveholding states date back to the nation’s very beginning. By the time of the Civil War, African descended people looked to multiple strategies and alliances to gain emancipation, caring less about which side would win than which side would offer greater advantages to their communities seeking relief from the current conditions.

Examples of Black heroism and valor are found on both sides of the confrontation. At the war’s conclusion, it was clear that expectations were raised not only for a new way of life, but hopefully a recognition that Black people had proved themselves worthy citizens and able to perform tasks beyond the narrow limits imposed by slavery.

Robert Smalls, a Charleston harbor pilot (and future state legislator 1871-1878), along with his family and a few friends, take control of the Confederate steamer, The Planter, sailing it out of Charleston Harbor and presenting it to the U.S. Navy. The Planter is converted for use as a Union ship and serves in that capacity throughout the Civil War.