As I mentioned in a prior post, the Lowcountry community of Beaufort, S.C., attracts visitors for its beautiful coastal setting and graceful antebellum homes, serving as a backdrop to films such as The Prince of Tides, The Big Chill and Forrest Gump. But the town also serves as a fascinating point in African-American history.
Robert Smalls, a native of Beaufort, in one of the most daring acts of the Civil War, escaped from slavery with 17 passengers by seizing a cotton steamer and coolly guiding it past Confederate checkpoints into Union hands. He went on to become a customs collector and congressman in the Reconstruction Era. His gravesite is in the courtyard of the Tabernacle Baptist Church, behind a bust made in his memory.
Another site of interest in African-American history is the First African Baptist Church, where I stopped and took this picture in the middle of last month, while on a day trip from Hilton Head, S.C., where I was staying. This church had its origins in the aftermath of the Civil War. After the town’s occupation by Federal troops, it hosted a school for freedmen. It was formally organized in 1867.