Black History Month is intended to celebrate the African-American experience, both joyful and painful. Most importantly it is intended to educate. This education often involves storytelling and examining the lives of the most well known African-American historical figures, such as, Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, George Washington Carver, Booker T. Washington, and W.E. B. Dubois to name just a few.
As Orange County Republicans we would like to take a slightly different approach to celebrating Black History Month. We offer for your consideration two lesser known African-Americans, Hiram Rhodes Revels and Robert Smalls, who under the harshest possible circumstances accomplished truly extraordinary things. Perhaps their greatest accomplishment was to suffer and struggle without losing compassion for their fellow man and hope for the future. These are just two of hundreds, thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of similar stories that populate the African-American family tree; and, their stories are how we have chosen to celebrate Black History Month.
Hiram Rhodes Revels was born "free" in Fayetteville, North Carolina in 1827 (or 1822 depending on the source). He spent his life fighting slavery and its post-Civil War aftermath as a minister, soldier, legal scholar, college president and the first African-American member of Congress, elected as the Republican Senator from Mississippi in 1870. Please read Hiram Rhodes Revels
Robert Smalls was born into slavery in Beaufort South Carolina in 1839. In many ways Robert Smalls' story is very different from Hiram Revels. Revels was born free and a minister, an intellectual, and an educator. By comparison Smalls was born into slavery, worked as a field hand, longshoreman, steamer pilot, Union Navy pilot, successful businessman and Republican Congressman. Robert Smalls accomplished many great things in his extraordinary life, but for sheer audacity nothing tops his hijacking of the Confederate gunship CSS Planter. In the early morning darkness of May 13, 1862 Smalls commandeered the CSS Planter, loaded his family and others on board, steamed the ship past five heavily armed Charleston harbor forts and escaped to the Union naval blockade eight miles out to sea. The story of how he accomplished this escape is almost unbelievable, the stuff of legend (even Hollywood would love it). What is even more amazing is that this escape was just the beginning of a lifetime of remarkable deeds, accomplishments and compassion for others which were Robert Smalls' stock and trade. Please read Robert Smalls