Southern Agenda

Courage of Convictions

Robert Smalls might still be an unfamiliar name to some—but a new team of artists aims to change that. On October 6, the Charleston Gaillard Center will debut Finding Freedom: The Journey of Robert Smalls, a play by Teralyn Reiter that traces the life of Smalls, who was born into slavery in Beaufort, South Carolina, and went on to free himself by commandeering a Confederate transport ship in Charleston Harbor. He became a businessman and politician who served five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and helped found the U.S. public school system. “He was a complex figure: He was a legend and an outlaw; he was sought after and he was despised,” says JaMeeka Holloway, the play’s director. Holloway assembled an all-Southern team to bring Reiter’s script to life, including Grammy-winning composer Charlton Singleton. “As we celebrate Robert,” she says, “we will also celebrate the Gullah culture that created him.”