Be Free or Die: The Amazing Story of Robert Smalls’ Escape from Slavery to Union Hero

Cate Lineberry. St. Martin’s, $25.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-250-10186-0
Journalist Lineberry (The Secret Rescue) chronicles how in 1862 Robert Smalls, an illiterate 23-year-old deckhand from Charleston, S.C., hijacked the Planter, a Confederate steamer, and with a crew of fellow enslaved sailors—including his wife and children—sailed to freedom in Union-occupied waters, giving valuable Confederate secrets to the North. Through succinct and powerful prose, Lineberry unveils how Smalls hatched his bold and dangerous plan to steal the ship. His defiant act was “an extraordinary and unprecedented event” that made national headlines and gave lie to the white-supremacist belief in black inferiority. Smalls became a Union hero who met with President Lincoln and a hallowed leader of the South Carolina coastal Gullah community to which he belonged. Lineberry narrates Smalls’s story against the backdrop of the Civil War and Reconstruction, detailing his career as a Union soldier, U.S. congressman from South Carolina, school builder, businessman, and customs collector, as well as his fall into obscurity after his 1915 death. Lineberry elevates Smalls to America’s pantheon of black leaders, showing him to have been as courageous and inspirational as Harriet Tubman in her heroic exploits along the Underground Railroad and Booker T. Washington in his rise from bondage. Agent: Ellen Geiger, Frances Goldin Literary. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/17/2017
Release date: 06/20/2017
MP3 CD - 978-1-977351-48-7
Compact Disc - 978-1-977301-48-2
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