tv Be Free or Die CSPAN August 26, 2017 7:00pm-8:11pm EDT
[inaudible conversations] >> hello, can everyone here now in great. welcome tonight. hello? my name is matthew. i work here on the events staff and on behalf of the storm owners -- store owners i want to thank you and welcome our speakers. cell phones and all other devices that go binge should be turn off. as well as since tonight is the sole event so there's one of
the -- if could i just ask everyone to fold-under their chairs at the end of the event and lean them against the klose bookshelf or wall. that would be greatly appreciated. and last thing is for the q & a session after the presentation, if could ask you to step to the side to my left right here. we have a like, microphone because we have c-span here. eight u aid like to introduce the author, cate line berry. her sect major work following the secret rescue, and untold story of american nurses and medics behind nazi lines. nominated for the 2014 edgar award for the best fact crime and number one "wall street journal" best seller.
robert small in 1862 sees a confederates steamer sail from charleston harbour through a union blockade, fleeing himself and his family but his mission did not end there. he would later become the first black captain of an army ship and enjoy, "usa today" clears reed reading the book is like recovering a lost heirloom. count look human -- countless publications -- cate line berry has made a career as a staff writer and editor the national geographic and smithsonian magazine. she currently'ses in raleigh, north carolina, and she is with michael moor, the great, great grandson of mr. smalls. mr. moore is an accomplished businessman and the
international african-american museum in charleston, carolina. [applause] >> we decided before that i'm going to sort of ask the first question but it feels awkward. this is cates event and i'm support of supporting her so i just want to do my part to welcome y'all here. it's great. i've had -- we had a chance to do this once before and this looks like a great crowd, and i hear it's a friendly one. lots of folks that know herself. we're going to just do a little bit of a q & a, back and forth, and in so doing i think reveal a bit more about the man, robert smalls, his life, and some other stuff. so, i think i'm going to start.
how did you -- how did robert signaled come across your radar and you have -- you could have written about anything. why robert smalls? >> well, thank you for being here. it means the world to me to have the support of robert smalls' family in writing this back. it was very important to me in going into this and it's just been wonderful. so thank you. then sorry to my friend from national igraphic. many of them who are here who i have my back turned to a little bit. nothing personal, i promise. was looking for my second -- an idea for the second book, and it's often a rick task because you are trying to find a subject that you're bringing something new to the table with and that can be hard, given how many books there. are my young brother sent me an article about robert smalls and
i was fascinated by him, and particularly by the idea i never heard of him because i had done through the work at national igraphic and smithsonian and writing for thetimetime civil war blog had wrote a lot ofs about the civil bar and amazed to find he was not a better known figure. so in looking at that article i decided i wanted to know more. i wanted to know what compelled him to take such a great risk in stealing this -- seizing this ship and taking his family with him and risking everything after having a life of being told he was not equal. so i was hook from there. i felt like there was a room in the marketplace for a book about robert smalls, and a nonacademic become for a mass audience so that's how i got started. and of course, the most obvious question to ask you is what impact is having a great-great-greatgrandfather who is an american hero have on you
growing up. >> it's almost hard to know where to start on that question. from sort of a metaphysical level it has been profound in the sense that as a young person, you grow up and i think we're all insecure to a certain degree about the variety of different things. i had the benefit of growing up in the '70s in boston, which while boston, massachusetts, has sort of the branding a being a progressive liberal kind of place, can assure you that around issues of race in the '70s it wasn't. i'll acknowledge my brother everback there, he and i deployed to prep school in new england back during those days, so thank you for coming. but -- so a couple levels. as a child, at first i really -- it just kind of just was.
grew up with robert smalls' again, hi grandmother was his granddaughter. she was born in 1897. and so lived with robert for -- up until her teen years, and further robert's daughter lived with my mother and my grandparents for the last 22 years of her life, and she had the benefit of living a long, long life. he was on the planter when robert commandeered it on may 13, 1862, but died in 1959. so, my mother grew up with first-hand hearing, first-hand stories about robert and she didn't -- she was maybe four, three years old and didn't remember much about that night but she remembered being scared and remembered just kind of
the -- i don't know if trauma is the right wore word but the experience of being scary, and then obviously was able to be much more detailed about growing up and she ended up with his secretary in washington and everything. so to make a long story short, it really sustained me. it filled me with -- supported my sense of self-esteem, my sense of self. growing up and being attacked around my sense of identity, my ethnicity, my race, having somebody like robert smalls, who had accomplished something, who had done big things against enormous odds, really helped to counterbalance a lot of that and so that was wonderful. then even to this day, i'm president of a museum in charleston. would not be president of a museum in charleston had i not had this connection to robert smalls.
and so it -- the gift that keeps on giving, and i think for me, my challenge is how do i continue that gift to my children? i've got four sons, and -- >> one of his his names is robert. >> that's right. so i just think it's -- i feel an obligation. i'm expressing that obligation to some degree in my work i'm doing at the museum, but most important, around passing that long to my children and hopefully some day my grandchildren. so it's been wonderful. so, how -- when you were thinking about robert smalls and thinking about, that's a cool story to some degree there had to be something of a business decision about relevance and about how the story translated to today's readers. walk us through that process and why you thought the robert
smalls story, which is not a new story, perhaps an undertold story but not a new story. why that could be relevant today. >> certainly people in buford know his name. that is the town in south carolina where he was born and raised until he was 12. but, yeah, definitely a marketing decision, business decision when you're picking a topic. you want to make sure you're bringing something new to the table, like i mentioned, but there was also i think in order to really appeal to modern day readers who have so many choices, you want to do something that is relevant to their lives today, and you can't pick up a newspaper or turn on the tv without seeing some issue regarding race in our country. it permeates every aspect of our society. robert smalls' story is extraordinary on its own, but if you combine it with sort of the plight of african-americans during the civil war, it illustrates -- his story
illustrates so much and that is what really appealed to me as well. telling small' story during the civil war, which is the focus of the book, and then telling the story -- in order to understand his story you have to understand so many issued that african-americans were facing, and so many issues that our country was dealing with at the time. i learned so much in the research process of this book because i had no idea how much of the decision it was whether or not to free the slaves for so long. the war had gone on for are so long soft when robert smalls sailed to freedom with his family he was considered contrabands tick particularly speaking -- technically speaking. most slaves considered themselves free but the government of the united states has nod decided what they were going to do. so in order for our country to get past or heal from some of the racial issue years dealing with, we have to fully understand the full story and
robert smalls' story -- he was in the center of everything. he was born in buford, of course, near port rail sound and that wag taken of by the union in november 1861, and became -- because when the union took it over, the whites in the area fled, leaving behind 10,000 enslaved men, women and children who had no food and who did not know how to care for themselves. never been allowed to. so, the government had to figure out how to help them and it was the beginning of the first efforts of reconstruction happened there. and then of course when he was 12, he made it to charleston, south carolina and charleston was the place with the state of south carolina signed the order nance of secession, the spiritual capital of the confederacy so she was in the middle of it all and that was an important aspect the story. there's a picture of you i've seen several times in the '70s
maybe at tabernacle church. you explain what the relevance to robert smalls is of the church. >> well, i've been blessed to have an opportunity to talk about robert smalls many, many, many times over the course of my life. hundreds of times. but the first time that i spoke publicly about robert smalls was april 1976. i think i was 13 or 14 years old, just come back from a trip to d.c., the eighth grade trip that everybody does to d.c. and it was loosely -- sort of robert smalls day in south carolina that day. a big parade. got a chance to ride on a float with the lieutenant governor. then afterwards, tabernacle baptist church where he is buried i got an opportunity to unveil the bust of him there.
and it's interesting, i remember being quite terrified up to the moment, thinking about speaking in front of people, and something literally sort of washed over me as i'm sitting on this stage, and sort of took that anxiety away and i've never really felt anxious about speaking in public. doesn't mean i do it well but i -- so, whether that was robert sort of moving his hand over me or whatever, but that was a great opportunity, and our family has a traveling exhibit, robert smalls traveling exhibit that travels around the country, has artifacts and papers and some models and the like about his life, and typically whenever that opens someplace, go and do a little talk. so it's always wonderful having an opportunity to talk about somebody you're proud about and
if that person happens to be connected to you, all the better. >> the exhibit is actually in buford right now. >> it is. ten e tell me about the research process. you found out about him. you decided that this is someone you would be interested in perhaps exploring further. what's the research process like for something like this? >> well, talking to an audience full of a lot of researchers, but i was trained by the very best, i think, at national geographic, many years ago, but the way i start is i cast as wide of a net as i possibly can in the first few weeks and months of starting a story. i read as much as i can on a topic. kind of picking the low-hanging fruit, and see what i can learn from there. then typically from there you find other angles of -- places where you want to research. knew that robert smalls pension
files were in the national archives, and that was something that once he sail the ship to freedom, the union ended up hiring him as a civilian boat pilot. he could have been enlisted as i believe the other men who were onboard the ship were, but dupont, daniel dupont, the admiral that took the ship from smalls, needed him as pilot, and the only level that robert smalls could be enlisted as would be boy, which is the very lowest, not a very well-respected position and certainly never would have been allowed to be a boat pilot and he needed him as a boat pilot. was very impressed with his navigational skills and everything else. so for many years smalls had to fight for a pension '. he served in numerous battles throughout the war, in all -- in every way he was a enlest -- enlists man but i knew the
pension files would be very reality. it was amazing to see the hand writhing in these noted that are still at the archives, and then the human in wilmington, delware bushings due upon's connection to the story, they have a lot of the papers delivered when smalls turned over the boat him that have the order book that was on the planner. they have confederate passes, and for me there's nothing like seeing something like that in person. it just makes the story so real. some of the museum -- some of the archives in south carolina also had items and then one of the -- i think i mentioned this the last time we spoke. one of the most sort of upsetting documents i came across was a bill of sale for smalls future wife, hand narks when she was -- they had not met yet and was in 1840, and he -- she was sold along with her children for $800 to samuel
kingman, he new owner, and seeing that on a piece of paper with dust brought this history to life in a way that reading about it just can't. as a white person doing the story, i think it hit home in a way that i hadn't realized it would. as i'm sure it would for anyone who was looking at these documents. so, going to these archives, finding as much material, i never in my wildest dreams thought i would find family members that i could count on for this book. with my world war ii story i thought it was a little bit easier, but certainly did not think there would be people actively preserving smalls' story and lo and behold, dr. hellen moor, michael's mother, had done a traveling exhibit, michael is the peek for the family, now the president of the museum in charleston and takes the subject seriously and is clearly passionate about it. that made it easier, too. when you see the impact.
i can see through your family the impact that education has had in your lives, seems like it's something that your mom had her ptl, you have your mba. smalls was illiterate until his 20s he saw education as way to freedom and passed than on to his children and that was realin stilled in the family. something you value very much. so i tried to turn over every leaf i can when doing research, and you never know what that's going to be. was really determined to find out henry mckey's reaction. henry mckey was small's owner. i wanted to find out his reaction to smalls' seizing the planter, and there was not a lot of information out there, but in a family diary that was published, there was a small mention that he was working in a confederate hospital in columbia doing the war and just lost two children from illness, and
quickly just mentioned that he knew about it. so, it wasn't the big awe -- ah-ha moment i hoped to get but it was important to know what kind of reaction he had. you never know where that's going to come up and the fact that so many newspaper articles are being digitized and so much material is being digitized now, that really helps a lot. saves hours and hours of time. >> can i ask a followup? >> yes. >> so, part of the reason why the robert smalls story is not better known is because, for certain parts of the country, there was a strategic effort to mute the story. somebody m-2012 we had a commemoration of smalls taking the bode for freedom and someone came up to me afterward very
emotional, very upset, i'm angry with you because robert smalls -- my history, my ancestors trace to confederacy and robert smalls embarrassed the confederacy. i'm not quite sure what response he expected of me, and i wanted to be sure not to disrespect him personally, but i -- but i just wonder, if you were doing a book about abe lincoln there we be in addition to sort of original research, owl kind of other authors who uncovered things and, and witch robert smalls probably wasn't a whole lot of that and then this whole influence of sort of muting, again. i wonder how that played, if at all in your research. >> oh, no. it's one of the challenges i think people who are doing nonfiction -- we can only write what we can validate and really -- you can throw in only
so many probablies and possiblies and so -- which i certainly did, but, yeah, definitely an issue, and the fact he was illiterate until his 20s. not a lot of writings to go back on. his daughter, your great-grandmother, did a lot of his writing for him later in life. so it was definitely something i had to think long and hard about do. >> have enough material their make this book come to life and i hope i did. but it's definitely a consideration and that is why it's so important to find as many sources as you possibly can. but in your asking that question, it reminds me of, i'd met one of the descend tents -- descendents of the captain of the ship at the time. he decided to go into town and spend time with their family,
which was against confederate orders. thus leaving the area open for smalls to do what he did. somakeous he -- so miraculous he was able to do this, and he told me when entered view him he was the first generation to not be embarrassed by the story, and he is very open to playing -- to his role and came to our reading in charleston, and has embraced it, but i think that speaks volumes to the legacy of the south and of the division in the country in some ways. so my question back to you would be about the descendents and what it was like for you to meet and who detroit economy what it was like to meet them. >> it's been really surreal to meese the descendents of other people. met this gentleman, royal, i met
a descendent of the family that owned the planter. i met a great-great grandson of samuel f. dupont in philadelphia at a museum event, and i sort of think of it abstractly to some degree. 150 years ago, all those peoples lives were intersecting and then they broke apart, and then 150 years later, the arc of those lives kind of came back together, and it's interesting. it's odd how that happened. but i would love to get as many of those descendents together around a table and just talk about what did you snaer what did you snaer what died you sort of growing up hearing? the dupont descendent really didn't know much about it at all. i think being dupont, you
probably have lots of other things to think about. but, yeah, it has been interesting. it's been fascinating. and i think picked up little things here and there. >> great. >> again, robert smalls is sort of an undertold story. were there things as you did your research, beginning writing, that surprised you or let me pose that another way. what surprised you most about the story? >> i think what surprises me the most was how i thought i knew a lot about what happened during that time beyond robert smalls, about african-american relationships to their owners, et cetera, et cetera, and i found that a lot of it was not exactly as i thought or it was a lot -- the brutality was there i was certainly aware of that. but i think that the -- how much
the lives of the people were intertwined and i found that robert was in such a unique position because he -- his mother, lydia, was born on the mckey plantation, and the age of nine years old she was taken to to the house in town this, buford house to raise the mckee children. ripped from her mother and -- but she spoke gala, the language spoken by a lot of the west african slave weather had their own language that were push together on these plantations and had to come up with a way to communicate with each other. so he had the benefit of gulla and knowing the gulla do you recall and also operate neglect mcsuu kyi world and he was privy to information because he was house slave. didn't realize the extent of the difference between that. certainly no one would ever wish
anyone to be an enslaved person working in a home, but compared to life on a plantation, it was a far better life. there was regular food, regular clothes and you were aware of a lot that was going on. so i think that is one of most shocking things. i was also really shocked to find out in the aftermath of the civil war the extent to which the south tried to reinstate slavery. i kind of knew it but didn't know to the extent. when black hosts were implement and it was quite shocking. i think that's the history i was talking about that we all need to understand more to fully grasp the history. i would ask you, was there anything in reading the book that surprised you? >> i think i read the first book about robert smalls there was a
children's book back in the '60s, and i loved books. this kind of an environment is home for me so i love being around books. i think for me it was an incremental kind of an experience. every time you hear a new detail or you read about something that you didn't know, it sort of -- almost feels like you're opening a door to some information that maybe that information was there but for some reason you just hadn't accessioned it or something. for me it was just broadly -- lots of details i think your research was fabulous. think holistically it was uncovering of new information, and it also -- to certain degree -- bus i file inextricably linked to him it's like learning a bit more about your own identity.
to some agree that's kind of -- to some degree it's kind of odd. cate and are just getting to know each other and here she is telling me something about who i am kind of thing. i've had to get used to that over the years, but, no, it's been fascinating. how did you -- in thinking about writing the book and sort of fashioning the story, you made a strategic decision to stop at a certain place. can you talk about that point and why you decided there as opposed to continuing to talk about other things. >> because, of course, you're referring to the fact that -- after the war, robert smalls went on to have an incredible career. serve as a congressman for five terms. did some amazing things. faced a lot of trials and tribulations, had death threats during reconstruction aftermath of the war. for me, i felt that the civil war was what made him the person he was. well, his childhood as well as
the civil war, and it launched him into this political career and i wasn't -- personally i wasn't as interesting in getting into the details about certain legislation and i really wanted to tell the story of him as a person, and as much as you can without having access to diaries and things like that, but to me first of all the seizing of the planter is sexy and exciting and everybody wants to know more about it but also understanding, kind of ripping off the covers of what it was like for a 12-year-old boy to be sent to charleston on his own, without anyone being his guardian, really. he was expected -- he was hired out for work, was expected to turn over most the paycheck. he would allowed to save a dollar each month. but that was important to me and that's what i felt like made him the man he became. so i was able to talk about the -- his life after the civil war and the epilogue, but i
really wanted to focus on what made him the person that he became. let's see. i think we have -- i'll ask you one more question ask and then move to questions from the audience so be thinking. used the term enslaved person throughout the book. in addition to slave whenever it felt right to me. that was a decision that my editor and i made, particularly after speaking to your mother, who really enlightened me about the issue. i wonder if you can talk a little bit about -- because i know through facebook and other means that's a preferred term for you as well. >> i think there's been a long journey from those days when robert smalls was around, to -- for african-americans to kind of seize the narrative of our lives, our existence, our
identity, and so broadly i think it fits into that stream of sort of evolution, identity evolution, more personally, it's been sort of passed down through the generations that lidda, robert's mother, said to him when he was young, that robert, you may be enslaved but you are not a slave. and i think the distinction that she was trying to offer was this may be the condition you're in but this doesn't define who you are. there's a difference between an adjective and a noun. and so the combination of this -- and i don't know. the last decade or so people have been starting to make that distinction, and the fact that i've got, like, some personal connection to that thinking, i think resonates with me. people of african descent has
been around since the first human being. the history in this country is like this much in the span of time, and so i don't think that defines those people who suffered through that. think that was what the role they were forced to play. >> i found even in my writing when i would talk about enslaved men, women and children, it reminded me of their humanity in so many ways. read counselless articles before the suffering that was happening with the people that were left mind by the whites when they fled port royal and buford, but when you start kind of grouping people together and the slaves did this or they need this and then when you start talking about individual people, men, women, children, it becomes much more powerful to people as well. >> i think just to talk really for just a minute about this museum we're building. one of the galleries we're building is called atlantic connections and seeks to
uncover -- seeks to talk about this point. the fact is that the people who came here, the africans who came to america, wasn't this monolithic group of people. it was people from hundreds of different ethnicities and languages and religions, who came from accomplished civilizations and so i think that understanding adds to the sense of humanity that you just talked about, think it's important. >> great. well, with that, does anyone have any questions they'd like to ask any think they want you to come to the microphone. >> hello. thank you very much for your words. i'm finding the book to be truly meaningful. for me one of the most moving aspects of the book was learning about how robert smalls ultimately purchased the house
in beaumont -- >> buford. >> thank you. in which he and his mother had been enslaved mitchell question is, i'm -- my question is what happen to the house? is the house still standing today and is it's museum? is it privately owned? >> you can't to answer? >> the house remained in our family for about 100 years, and in the 1950s or so, late not 1950s, just about everybody had left buford. butford had fallen on hard economic times so my family end up in charlotte and north and south carolina, and the decision wassed in, business decision to sell the house. enough it's in private hands. it's on the national register of historic sites or -- but it's private residence. >> great question. thank you.
>> i'm not sure this is a good question so if it's not, apologize in advance. >> we'll let you know. >> it's on my mind so i'll ask it nye. i haven't read the book yet but i can't wait testimony just finished reading douglas edger tons about the massachusetts 54th and 55th 55th regiment and i saw reference to robert smalls in the book. i thought i had to read about that guy and your book came sought i'm happy to sigh it. i'm -- you appear to be a relatively fearless kind of person who would take on a new subject -- >> thanks to my husband. he's back there. >> i'm somewhat curious about the quote-unquote racial aspect of this in the sense of you being a -- i don't like white and black, i realize there's social constructs and all that, but you being you, writing about an african-american hero, and i
just wondered what your thoughts were before you took that on and how things transpired as you got into it. if it what important or not. >> it was incredibly important. i would be very naive as writer to go goo any topic without thinking about every angle you can. certainly with a topic that deals with race, whatever topic that is, you have to be ready to make sure that all your factors are correct, that one of the things that was most important to me was being a sensitive as i possibly could to the issue, so that involved having a professor who is a specialist in african-american history, and who is african-american himself, read the book. the manuscript, once it was done, consulted with him throughout the process. certainly having the family of robert smalls, whether he was white, black, or asian, was very important to me because i -- my goal as a writer is to -- is not
to put anyone down. that's not -- my goal was to get the accurate story and in this case i wanted to elevate someone that i believed was a hero. but it was very important to me to listen to any issues that came up, like when michael's mother mentioned the -- we were going to use the term "slave" on the title. his journey from slave to union hero, and she was opposed to that, and i completely understand why now, and we made that argument with the editor who was very gracious about and it understood, and the last thing i warranted to do was to insult people that i was really trying to help by telling the story, the smalls family. was a dawning thing i. don't know if i fully realized how daunting when i started. was just overwhelmed by his story and i think he is an american hours -- american hero that we should all be looking to, beyond being
african-american, obviously that was an important aspect of his story, but that is really what made me decide to do it, that he is an american hero and i wanted people to know him, and hopefully i'd be as sensitive as possible and relied a lot 0 on a lot of cold readers i. had many, many people read and it alert me to anything they felt was insensitive towards the confederates as. -- as well. it is our past. i god interested in the severely war when is was younger when i learned i had relatives who fought on both sides of the war at the battle of get tisburg. both were injured. the confederate wasn't to a couple of p.o.w. camps. i thought that made be a good candidate to write the story because i think that i live in raleigh, north carolina now, and i think i've lived in washington, d.c. for 20 years
and it was are something that wars very much on my mind and i hope that i covered everything i could, but i was willing to take the chance to get his story out. thank you. >> i know you focus is on the civil war, but i have read about how robert smalls was one of the last african-american leaders to remain in power as the segregationists basically pushed out african-american leaders and he had control over his constituents in both -- in buford. can you comment on why that happened, why he was -- well, control may be -- >> i think it was really -- yeah. rabbiter smalls actually served longer than any other african-american congressman during reconstruction. i think that was largely across five terms -- lashingly because
buford was so overwhelmingly african-american at the time. so there were all sores of -- out sorts over efforts by the redshirts and others to sort of grab power again, but for the longest there was a real block of african-american voting power in buford that allowed him to sustain it. >> i think unfortunately he faced a lot of discrimination throughout his career and ultimately at one opinion was accused of bribery was sentenced to three years hard labor but only served three days before he was essentially pardoned but he wanted to go to the supreme court and argue his case because he femurly believed he was not guilty and it was an effort to take behind down himself career suffered a little bit so the last bit of this career he was the customs collector in buford. i think his long reign in buford speaks to the kind of person he was. he was respected not only bill the african-american community
but also by the whites in the area. one of the stories that you'll hear if you go to buford and go to his home or go on a tour past the home, is that smalls reached out to the mckee family who had owned him and his mother, and invited them to come back to the house and paid for their rail trip to buford and invited them to stay with him which was an extraordinary act of forgiveness in my book, and then the mckee family refused to eat with him at the same table but he continued to have them stay at his home and he served them separately. so, i think a lot of his success was determined by the kind of person he was. despite the efforts to knock him down. >> hi. i haven't read your book but i have a couple of questions. smalls was -- regarding his
pension, i know that there was some struggle regarding the -- him obtaining his pension. i know he served undersome samuel dupont and i think it was robert -- david hunter who was the army commander. i'm just curious, so he was -- is a understand it he was proposed to the rank of a captain or pilot, which should have allowed him to receive this pension. when he requested -- when he did the investigation regarding his pension, i don't understand why he didn't call on samuel dupont or david hunter to assist him and verify the fact so he would be able to get his pension? i understand he later severed his pension, but i'm a little confused why there was a struggle for him to receive the pension. >> you want me to answer? he was proposed to captain
but -- promoted to captain but not a military capacity. he was captain of a ship and that happened shortly after he was piloting boats during the charleston campaign. they got close to some fire, and the white captain of the ship at the time panicked and hid in the bunker and the coal bunker, and smalls jumped in and because he was so heroic and saved many lives they immediately said, let's make this guy captain. but he was not a military captain. he was captain of that boat. hunter died -- dupont died shortly -- during the war, soon after he, the lost his position because of what had happened in charleston, and i don't remember exactly when hunter died but i know that for many years, smalls actually fought to get a pension for hunter's wife after he died so this is the kind of man he was. looking out for people who helped him. but so i think it all comes down to to the idea he was a civilian
boat pilot, never an enlisted man. he did it but if he had been enlisted he would not have been allowed to be a pilot. so what choice did he have? >> the other side of that coin is that as an african-american, he faced certain obstacles in the process that he wouldn't otherwise. for example, there was a law on the books that when property was delivered to the union, that a certain formula was delivered to -- in terms of a reward and smalls never got that for what he delivered. the congress couldn't see fit to give a black man that much money. so, i think it was complicated. let's just say. >> one final question. did he have a relationship with frederick douglass? >> he absolutely did. he and frederick douglass met with secretary of war standon and in fact with president lincoln around trying to lobby
to get formerly enslaved men to be included in the union. by the way, also a number of letters back and forth between the two men, some of which are in the exhibit that we have. >> i have a writing process question. i was in tim wendell's class when you talk about the secret rescue and i was just curious how you feel either your voice changed or just your maybe approach to organizing this book changed from your first major piece to this one. >> that's a great question. got my masters degree in writing from johns hopkins and kim tim wen wendell was my thesis adviser and i spoke to your class. the first time you try to write a book you have no idea what you're doing and your editor wants you to have it done bay certain deadline and they're not holding your hand, so i think my experience with -- as bag
researcher at national geographic compelled me to make sure i got every detail right for both books. what i learned in the process was you have to humanize the characters more as well. i mean i was so afraid of attributing something that didn't really happen that i was probably a little bit gun shy about that. think -- i think with experience, you know, you gain so much. you understand the process, you understand what kind of feetback you'll get followed for your editor, and it's deaf it in lay -- definite lay learning process and getting you legs on the first book is to be expected unless they're far better writers out there than i am. >> hi. >> hi. >> first of all, let me thank you so much for doing this because i do have -- many of us do have billingsley's book on smalls, and reading that and coming to hear him.
many of us felt there was need for more of a personal story about smalls himself and you have done that. >> thank you. >> where were you in the process -- i'll ask both of you -- when the massacre at mother emanuel occurred and what do you think the impact will be from that on your work as well as your work at the museum. >> go ahead. >> i had written the proposal. it had gone around with my agent had taken it to publishers and we had a publisher interested, and had acquired the book and so i think when this horrific event happened, it just reiterated the idea that this was a relevant story to today. reference clement of pinkny was in a position that smalls has served in and admired robert smalls.
i think it was skip gates, professor at harvard who interviewed him and he had specifically mentioned robert smalls. so it was very poignant to me. was already innerved in the story, working on it, and wanting it to be the best i could, but it was shocking reminder just how much we still have -- how far we have to go in this country, and i did visit it on one our my further trips to charleston and there war a lot of flowers still out. it had been months and months but it was pretty moving moment, and just a tragedy. >> i think in trying to build museum that seeks to tell these untold stories, like robert smalls and so many others, there are lot of challenges and former mayor riley, who conceived of this museum -- >> wonderful, mayor of 40 years. >> that's right.
he actually first talked about the museum in his state of the city address in the year 2000. so, it's been out there, it's been percolating for a long time. at first the mayor has to toe build the mitt cal case to line and white we needed this museum, and believe it or not, i'll say this humbly and with respect, there were a lot of people then, as there are some now, in charleston, who don't really understand why we need this museum. charleston is this really beautiful city and i think mayor riley has done an amazing job in sort of building it, but there's an element sort of a romantic antebellum, old south element that drives a lot of the major industry, which is tourism, that really is uneasy about african-american history and certainly the role that played in building charleston and in
building this nation. so i think to your question, when the massacre at mother emanuel occurred it was shocking to everybody and caused people rethink relationships and things everybody thought was in these issues that everyone thought were kind of being managed or were okay, and for me now, a couple years later, it is really -- a very powerful influence on things. if i was stand neglect front door right now, mother emanuel church would be closer than that front door. it's right across the street. so, you messenger bet the flowers. every morning -- every day, i see people go and sort of pay respects and leave flowers and other sorts of things. it remains -- of course just to
take a step back, with the trial and so that the legal process continues to sort of progress on that. it's just kind of hanging there. and charleston continues to evolve and to grow and to try to figure out how to deal with these kinds of things. i think the human hopes to try to be part of contributing to those conversations in productive and positive ways. >> there's a great tour in this, and with the work at the museum and i was going to ask, how can we as average citizens support and help in what you are doing, and you have a lot of truth here, and the one thing i'd like to see come out of that museum -- i'm a frequent visitor charleston and i have been to mother emanuel and did my first communion there, the year after in terms of the first sunday. but to tell the truth. to tell the truth.
because it has been so hidden, and kept secret and hidden, despite the romanticism because charleston is a beautiful city. now i bring forth my friend cindy who is a charlestonnan. >> i wish i had that ped degree. i'm from south carolina but not the charleston pedigree and it is of great distinction. the people of charlestons are healed in great esteem in the state. know you did a lot of research and i am a researcher myself and this is an untold story for the nation but within the state of south carolina, certainly within the african-american community, we grew up with this story. so there's an oral history that is very strong throughout the state, and i assume much stronger in buford and charleston. so my question is do you have any oral history that you tapped
into to get the perspective of the people there? because robert smalls, every other person i know of is telling veronica claims to be descending from robert smalls. my question is did you getfully oral history to contribute to your understanding what happened >> ey. great question did it get any oral hit to contributed to the tell offering the story. absolutely. thick not only going to places where your story takes place is so important to get a feel of the place, but you have to talk to people who have opinions and often times things are wrong that are passed down but often times they're right itch was fortunate in that dr. moore, michael's mother, grew up as her grandmother elizabeth, who was four years old on the planter. when helen tells me something i
believe helen. and most of her material that i was able to verify was absolutely true. so i think as a researcher, you want to get that oral history and then you have to evaluate it based on sources, because it was very important to me to not just reiterate stories that have been passed down that don't have any basis in truth, but often times oral history is a great beginning and i think it's an important part to get the full story. >> just as corollariy to that. the question about the race being an issue for you as an author. think it's extremely important to recognize this man, as an american hero, not as an african-american hero. had he been white and delivered that ship, it would have been a great act. >> he would have been president. [laughter] >> i don't mean it that way. mean the fact that it was hidden and not spoke been more generally. >> yeah.
>> and with the help of the texas board of education made sure a it's not in any of the history books. but it is -- it was very much a part of the lore and the pride of the people over south carolina. >> your unit is excellent and i thought about this over and over again, this is an american story, and of course who is robert small's father was is unknown and he was likely white. a story that is a black and white story. we don't have to put labels on it. he's an american hero that every child should hear about in school. one quick thing about the human but it will be on the site of gadston's war. >> thank you for the prompt. we have the wonderful blessing to be able to create a museum on the site that where almost half
of tall the enslaved africans who came to america took their first steps. so it's really sacred ground. there's an amazing african-american history museum in this city, and i hope y'all had a chance to be there. its leader, lonny bunch, says -- told us one time that there are very, very few sacred sites of african-american history in the entire continent, hemisphere, he said but the gadston's wharf is one of them. we have an enormous opportunity. i like to position it as an opportunity but most of the time i think of it as a responsibility, and i think of it's an obligation, and i think sort of the north star for me in this project. i have two. one is the ancestors this week
create this in a way that makes them proud. and then the other is my children and we have 0 build this in a way that deliver that legacy and those stories to them and helps them to have a firm understanding of who they are. so it's really important work. i'm blessed to be able to do it. >> we have time for one more quick question. >> thank you so much for both of you being here. i'm trying to speak into this. i have not had the pleasure of reading the book yet but what stood tonight is your constant mention of mr. smallses been taken to charleston at age 12, and someone would has kin in charleston is if you go to avery institute you see the badge that african descendents had to wear around town you understand the town has survived plagues plagud epidemics and matters of
science, art, have hearty contribution from african descended people that are very physically present so it's very mocking that -- i sense that is what you described earlier about charleston kind of avoiding race, and i'm just wondering if you -- you have said a lot but can you say more about -- especially a man being brought to that city, strictly ordered the -- ordered, how does he fit into that kind of history and extension of it? thank you. ...
and it, i don't think robert, i think that was one of the reason why is robert was able l to do what he did was because not only did he grow up. the circumstances that he grew up in allows him to dream big dreams and then try to wonder well -- why aren't i, you know, why aren't i free? but then he was around people that was a stimulating, you know, kind of a social situation as well. so i don't know that this directly answers your question. but i think from my perspective that's part it have. but -- >> i want to say to add quickly robert small what i found was that he embraced every opportunity that came his way to restrictions et cetera but he found way around the them that's particularly extraordinary about his story he was derled to create a life for himself that was not determined by someone else and that's remarkable to me. thank you.
>> one thing if we have just another 30 seconds by relevant to this. it always -- it sort of astounds me how shocked people are that robert did what he did that he took this boat an sailed it to freedom but i liken it to if you're starving you haven't eaten in two weeks, but yet you're put in a room with amazing buffet in front of you, and then people leave and close the door. you know, robert, he wanted to be free. he had saved money he had tried to buy the freedom of his wife and children had. hadn't gotten that far yet, and then saw this opportunity and he took it. so if i -- [inaudible conversations] tell your friends but i did hear that we have time for one more question if there was someone waiting in the back.
i had a question when you're doing your research and writing we do a lot about the men in history, did you find yourself -- did you find yourself balancing out the women in his life and how, you know, they were important. >> it's a great question sadly i don't think we have a lot to go on. hannah i think had a big impact on this trip. i think she's an unsung hero it was his life, and you know, i wases determined to find an interview with her and i looked and looked and i only found one mention of her in one article and it was there was a correspondent deferred at the time that happened to interview her on the street and she explained that they have all decided if it looked like they were going to be captured when they were trying to escape that rather than going back to slavery they would hold hands and dump overboard with their children, and drown themselves. so you know, as much as i
absolutely adore robert smalls i think i'm biased but as a woman i think, you know, hannah an lidia particularly his mother really instilled in him such a sense of -- empowerment that i think could have very easily been lost to him. so i wish there was more that i could have added i was interested in two women who were brought onboard the ship we don't exactly know their relationship to smalls. but i did sign an article later that said, one of the young women that was on there hosted once he was able to buy the home on prince street he hosted a wedding for her and he was consider he considered her his adopted daughter. but what history we'll never know. you know, and that's why fiction is sometimes a feeling you can add that -- >> one thing that i we cannily add lidia his mother is the real central figure in his life. i don't think robert smalls is robert smalls without his mother, an robert had the somewhat rare opportunity to grow up at least the first 12 years with her.
and you know, traditionally once children got to the point where they could been monetized they were sent to work and robert got a chance to grow with her and mention the quote ting that speaks to something that she invested in. there are other examples where she -- sort of took him places to see the realities of slavery that he might have been shielding from. otherwise -- and so the other cork of history, she when he was in charleston when the civil war break out. she was, you know, still in due fort and battle of port royal in 1861 free essentially not legally but effectively freed her but robert cheering about freedom i can only imagine it worked on his nerve that his mom was free. but i think that was another element to this.
sure, thank you. thank you very much for coming. appreciate it. >> you can get the book at our register at the front of the store, and we'll start porming to the left right here if you're interested in signing. yep. here's a look at the some of the current best selling nonfiction books according to politics and pro bookstore here washington, d.c. topping the list journalist robert wright offers his thoughts on a benefits of buddhism in why buddhism is true. followed by remember the ladies, look at key players in the national suffrage movement by angela dodge son. first sue hanson reflects on america global staging in notes on a foreign country. next is devil's garbage from
bloomberg business week joshua greene on the relationship between president trump and his former chief strategist e steve bannon. that's followed by best selling author mark's recount of turning point of the vietnam war play 1968. our look at the best selling nonfiction books according to washington, d.c.'s politics and pro bookstore continues with minnesota senator elle's memoir giant of the senate. 7th is astro physicist neil degrasse tyson exploration of the universe for people in a hurry. that's followed by stanton a biography of abraham lincoln secretary of war by walter star. next, film critic and examines inner workings of movie production in talking pictures. and wrapping our look at the best selling nonfiction books according to politics and a pros bookstore, is jd van with his recollection are of his childhood in a rough town in ohio. hillbilly alley many of these authors have or will be
appearing on booktv and you can watch them on our website booktv.org. >> does anyone else have an experience they would want to share? tyrone asked about his megs again and cynthia deflects conversation turns to drugs and alcohol, when tyrone instead begins talking about getting arrested for smoking a blunt. everyone except the wall flower patient has something to say about drugs. may i say something minor? asks manny during a pause in the discussion. sure cynthia thodz. i don't mean to take up everyone's valuable time in the group i know i don't deserve it thank you so much for letting me speak. jamal sighs in frustration you're pine man just talk. thank you, thank you. it's just that i struggle with alcohol for so long, almost 40 years now. i've been sober since getting locked up i hope so badly that i can stay clean when i get out. you see to be a little more comfortable now and continues talking. he tells us about been whipped
against wall as a 7-year-old when he didn't do a good job enough job cleaning up from his father's partying the night before. one morning manny drank a glass of leftover orange juice not realizing it was mixed with vodka and whipped million blood seeped through his shirt but it didn't hurt that much because he was city from the alcohol and drank as much as he could get his hands on after that. thank you for letting me share i know i'm not worth your time. yienl i wrote these words and i'm getting tearful. manny says to leaning forward in his chair so he can see him clearly you're worth it man you have mad courage. you just hang on and keep going one day at a time that's all you've got to do. jamal looks like he's about to cry as no one accept psychotic
patient antoine and tyrone look uncomfortable with expression of expressions but cal bell nods in agreement. yeah you have to take it one day at time think of days you've survived already. i glance at cynthia if she's appreciating of what's in front of us she's witnessessal movement to care for someone else. and no one want it is it to sending. >> you can watch this and other programs online, at booktv.org. >> and you're watching booktv on c-span2 it's television for serious read arers joining us now from freedomfest convention is author a lee edwards his most recent book is a brief history of the cold war before we get into the cold war mr. edwards how many books is this for you? >> probably -- 25, 26. but who's counting? [laughter] what topics?