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Be Free or Die : The Amazing Story of Robert Smalls' Escape from Slavery to Union Hero
by Cate Lineberry


Overview -

"A stunning tale of a little-known figure in history. Robert Smalls' astounding heroism during the Civil War helped convince Lincoln and the country that African Americans were extraordinarily capable of fighting for their freedom. Lineberry has produced a triumph in this heroic story that illuminates our country's ongoing struggles with race." --Henry Louis Gates, Jr, Professor in American History Harvard University and Executive Producer of Finding Your Roots

"Be Free or Die makes you want to stand up and cheer.  Read more...


 
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More About Be Free or Die by Cate Lineberry
 
 
 
Overview

"A stunning tale of a little-known figure in history. Robert Smalls' astounding heroism during the Civil War helped convince Lincoln and the country that African Americans were extraordinarily capable of fighting for their freedom. Lineberry has produced a triumph in this heroic story that illuminates our country's ongoing struggles with race." --Henry Louis Gates, Jr, Professor in American History Harvard University and Executive Producer of Finding Your Roots

"Be Free or Die makes you want to stand up and cheer. Cate Lineberry has done us all a great service by telling this incredibly moving, thrilling, and important story about an American hero who deserves to be remembered, and admired." --Candice Millard, author of Hero of the Empire

Facing death rather than enslavement--a story of one man's triumphant choice and ultimate rise to national hero

It was a mild May morning in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1862, the second year of the Civil War, when a twenty-three-year-old slave named Robert Smalls did the unthinkable and boldly seized a Confederate steamer. With his wife and two young children hidden on board, Smalls and a small crew ran a gauntlet of heavily armed fortifications in Charleston Harbor and delivered the valuable vessel and the massive guns it carried to nearby Union forces. To be unsuccessful was a death sentence for all. Smalls' courageous and ingenious act freed him and his family from slavery and immediately made him a Union hero while simultaneously challenging much of the country's view of what African Americans were willing to do to gain their freedom.

After his escape, Smalls served in numerous naval campaigns off Charleston as a civilian boat pilot and eventually became the first black captain of an Army ship. In a particularly poignant moment Smalls even bought the home that he and his mother had once served in as house slaves.

Be Free or Die is a compelling narrative that illuminates Robert Smalls' amazing journey from slave to Union hero and ultimately United States Congressman. This captivating tale of a valuable figure in American history gives fascinating insight into the country's first efforts to help newly freed slaves while also illustrating the many struggles and achievements of African Americans during the Civil War.


 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781250101860
  • ISBN-10: 1250101867
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publish Date: June 2017
  • Page Count: 288
  • Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.8 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Biography & Autobiography > Historical - General
Books > History > African American
Books > History > United States - Civil War

 
BookPage Reviews

Heroism, bravery and rebellion

In the early morning of May 13, 1862, the side-wheel steamboat Planter left its dock in the Charleston, South Carolina, harbor and eased past an array of heavily armed Confederate fortifications toward the open sea. The Planter was a local vessel that regularly plied those waters. The only thing that made this morning’s passage remarkable was that the runaway slave Robert Smalls was piloting the boat. His “cargo” consisted of 15 other slaves, among them his wife and children.

It was a daring escape, minutely planned and flawlessly executed. And it was the beginning of Smalls’ life as a free man. After surrendering his craft to the Union navy, along with crucial military intelligence, he continued to serve the Union cause as a pilot and as a spokesman for black equality. Endlessly imaginative and resourceful, Smalls was able, within less than two years of his escape, to buy the “master’s house” in which he and his mother had recently been slaves. (To compound this irony, years after the war ended, he invited members of his former master’s family to his home—once theirs—for a prolonged visit. They accepted but refused to eat at the same table with his family.)

Smalls, who learned to read relatively late in life, did not leave voluminous written records behind. But in Be Free or Die, Cate Lineberry has pieced together a coherent arc of Smalls’ story through contemporary newspaper accounts—he was heralded as a hero throughout the North—military and government records and biographies of those who worked with Smalls and knew him well. Lineberry sets these collected, fascinating details into a larger narrative about how the Civil War played out in the Union-occupied coastal areas of South Carolina.

 

This article was originally published in the July 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
BAM Customer Reviews