South Carolina State House, Robert Smalls, Monument

South Carolina House Passes Bill To Construct Robert Smalls Monument

The bill proposes a commission to raise funds and determine details for the monument of the late congressman.

A monument of former South Carolina Rep. Robert Smalls is one step closer to becoming the first on the grounds of the State House dedicated to an individual African American.

On March 21, the South Carolina House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill proposed by a Republican legislator from Berkeley County, Brandon Cox, to construct the monument honoring the late congressman, WIS10 reported.

The bill tasks a commission with determining the specifics, such as the monument’s location, type, size, and materials for what may become the first monument: “I just can’t think of anybody else that I would go and say, ‘Hey, let’s put a statue of this person on the grounds,’” Cox told WIS10 about Smalls, who he referred to as a “South Carolina hero.”

Born into slavery in 1839 in Beaufort, South Carolina, Smalls achieved an extraordinary feat during the Civil War. According to PBS, in 1862, Smalls navigated a Confederate ship to freedom, carrying himself, his crew, and their families from slavery to freedom in fewer than four hours. The article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. noted that the 17 black passengers included nine men, five women, and three children. Smalls later served in the South Carolina legislature and five non-consecutive terms with the U.S. House of Representatives.

Democratic Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, the longest-serving current House member, supports the idea of the monument and emphasizes the importance of public input. “It’s extremely important that we get monuments on the grounds that represent the full experience, especially in this climate, where there is an effort to whitewash history, to eliminate history,” she said.

A House Medical, Military, Public, and Municipal Affairs (3-M) subcommittee advanced Cox’s bill in early March, which must be approved by both chambers and gain the governor’s signature.

Cox intends for the commission to raise private funds and accept gifts and grants for the monument, which is awaiting approval by the South Carolina Senate.