Black History Month 2022

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Robert Smalls' Escape



Charleston, South Carolina - Robert Smalls escaped slavery with a Confederate military transport ship. It was one of the most daring escapes of the American Slavery War (1861-1865).

Fall of 1861, Smalls steered the CSS Planter. It was a lightly armed Confederate military transport. This was under command of Charleston's District Commander, Brigadier General Roswell S. Ripley.

The CSS Planter surveyed waterways and laid mines. It also delivered dispatches, troops, and supplies.

Smalls piloted the Planter in Charleston harbor and beyond. This included area rivers and the coasts of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

Smalls and the Planter's crew saw the federal blockade ships, from Charleston harbor. They were in the outer harbor, seven (7) miles away. Smalls had the confidence of the Planter's crew. To the Planter's owners, the crew behaved.

Sometime in April 1862, Smalls planned an escape. He met the other enslaved, except one. That one he did not trust.

Friday, May 12th, 1862, the Planter stopped at Coles Island, on the Stono River. A Confederate post was being dismantled. The ship loaded four large guns. The guns were to be sent to a fort in Charleston harbor.

At Charleston, the Planter added 200 lb (91 kg) of ammunition and 20 cord (72 m3) of firewood.

Friday evening, May 12th, the Planter was docked. It was at the wharf, below General Ripley's headquarters. Its three (3) white officers left the ship to spend the night ashore. Smalls and the crew remained on board, as usual.

Before departure, Smalls asked Captain Relyea to allow crew families to visit. The request was granted. But, Smalls was told the families must depart before curfew.

The families arrived onboard. There, the plan was revealed to them. Only Hannah, Smalls' wife, knew he wanted to escape.

Hannah never knew her husband planned to escape that night. She resisted, at first. But, she told him, 'It is a risk, dear, but you and I, and our little ones must be free. I will go, for where you die, I will die.'

Other women resisted. They cried and screamed, and the men struggled to quiet them. After, the initial shock, those women were glad for a chance at freedom.

Later, three (3) crew members made a pretense that family members had been escorted back home. It was a trick. The crew members circled around and hid on another ship. It was docked at the North Atlantic wharf.

Around 3 a.m., Saturday, May 13th, Smalls, with seven of the eight slave crewmen, began their escape. Smalls wore the captain's uniform. He wore a straw hat similar to the captain's.

While working on the Planter, Smalls watched Captain Charles C. J. Relyea. Smalls learned his manners to complete the disguise. He hoped to fool onlookers from shore.

Smalls sailed the Planter past Southern Wharf. He stopped at another wharf, where his wife and children boarded. Families of other crewmen boarded, too.

Smalls had to get past five Confederate harbor forts. At each fort, he gave the correct signals at checkpoints.

Around 4:30 a.m., the Planter made it past the last fort, Fort Sumter.

The Fort Sumter alarm was raised after the Planter was beyond gun range. Smalls replaced the rebel flags with a white bed sheet, his wife brought. Then, Smalls headed to the Union Navy fleet.

The USS Onward was about to fire on the Planter, until a crewman saw the white flag. The sheet was difficult to see, in the dark. The sunrise made it visible.

John Frederick Nickels, Captain of the Onward, boarded the Planter. Smalls asked to display a United States flag. The Planter and its cargo were surrendered, to the United States Navy.

Everyone on the Planter, escaped enslavement and made it to freedom.

Newberry Lynchings



Newberry, Florida - Whites killed six black people. Four (4) were black men. Two (2) were black women, with one pregnant. They were all lynched. The men were Andrew McHenry, Bert Dennis, and John Haskins. The women were Mary Dennis (pregnant) and Stella Young.

It all began because white men accused a black man of stealing hogs. None of the lynched were the man accused.

None of the whites were punished for the killings.

Source:

Newberry Lynching Marker

Florida Lynchings

Rosewoood Massacre



Rosewood, Florida - The black community of Rosewood was destroyed in one (1) week. A large white mob, from nearby towns, descended on Rosewood. Whites massacred the black people of the town and razed it.

The massacre started from a rumor. Word spread that a white woman was attacked by a black drifter, in nearby Sumner, Florida. As more white towns heard the rumor, a white mob formed.

On January 1st, the mayhem began. It ended January 7th. That is when the white mob burnt the last of Rosewood to the ground.

Groveland Four



Groveland, Florida - Norma and William Padgett, a white couple, falsely accused four (4) black males of rape and kidnapping. They were Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd, Charles Greenlee, and Ernest Thomas.

William Padgett said his car had broken down, while with his 17 year-old wife, Norma. He said they had just left a dance. Padgett claimed the four (4) stopped and offered help. Instead, Padgett said they attacked him and kidnapped his wife.

There was a manhunt for the four (4). All were quickly arrested, except Thomas. The rest were taken to Lake County jail. In jail, the three (3) were tortured. Thomas was found a week later. All were charged with rape. Lake County Sheriff Willis McCall killed Thomas, before he was arrested.

As word spread, a mob of 100 whites demanded that McCall deliver the three (3) survivors to them. The mob was told the three (3) had been sent to state prison. In response, the mob attacked the small black community in Groveland. Black people were shot and black property was destroyed by the white mob.

At trial, medical exams found no proof of rape. Despite this, all three (3) were convicted of rape, by an all-white jury. Shepherd and Irvin were sentenced to death. Greenlee got life in prison.

The United States Supreme Court threw out the two (2) death sentences. Those cases were retried. As Shepherd and Irvin were headed back to trial, Sheriff McCall shot them both. Shepherd died. Irvin was injured. Sheriff McCall claimed self-defense. Greenlee never appealed his sentence, since it was not for death. He was 16 years of age.

A new all-white jury convicted Irvin. He was again sentenced to death. In 1955, it was reduced to life in prison. In 1962, Greenlee was paroled. In 1968, Irvin was paroled. He died a year later, of heart disease. Greenlee died in 2012, at 78 years of age.

Lake County Sheriff Willis McCall is pictured, on the far left.

Source:

Groveland Four

Harry and Harriette Moore Killed



Mims, Florida - Harry T. Moore and his wife, Harriette V. S. Moore were killed the night of December 25th, 1951. A bomb exploded under the bedroom floor of the Moores' home in Mims, Florida.

The couple were equal pay and voting rights activists for black Americans. They were early organizers for Black Rights in Florida, after World War 2.

Four (4) white male Ku Klux Klan members were suspected of the murder. Yet, none were indicted, charged, nor arrested.

Trayvon Martin Killed



Sanford, Florida - Trayvon Martin was shot to death. Martin was a 17-year-old, from Miami Gardens, Florida. He was killed by George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old white male.

At 7:00 p.m., Sunday, Martin walked, alone, to the house where he stayed. Martin bought a bag of Skittles and a can of Arizona iced-tea, from the local store. As he walked, Martin was unaware of George Zimmerman.

Zimmerman was a volunteer of the community watch. He saw Martin and called the Sanford Police. Zimmerman said Martin was suspicious. The police told Zimmerman to leave Martin alone.

Zimmerman disobeyed the police. He confronted Martin. Zimmerman then fired one gunshot to the chest of Martin. The shot killed Martin and he died on the street.

On July 13th, 2013, Zimmerman was found not guilty for the death of Martin. Protests soon followed. Martin's death launched a number of racial justice movements, in the United States.

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