Life of Robert Smalls Graphic Novel

PDF Proposal: Life of Robert Smalls Proposal

Cover Letter

To Whom It May Concern:

The purpose of this proposed project is to create and publish a graphic novel surrounding the life and experiences of Robert Smalls. His story represents a story that deserves more attention than is currently provided. To date there is a children’s book as well as several biographies in traditional form, but there is a limited level to which, in our society today, that such narrative stories about an important individual- a standout who pulled himself out of slavery to become a war hero and political representative-that needs to more widely known by younger generations today.

Graphic novels are a means of communicating stories that have gone unknown or obscured by time or specialized discipline to larger audiences. They are a means for not only stories, but voices of minorities to be heard and specialized and misunderstood topics to be examined. Recent examples of such information and discussion has grown up around the Marchseries of books written by Rep. John Lewis and Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell. This series recounts the events that John Lewis’ own experiences during the Civil Rights movement. Relatedly, Nate Powell also illustrated another graphic novel surrounding the Civil Rights era called The Silence of Our Friendswritten by Mark Long and Jim Demonakos and based on Mark Long’s own childhood witnessing strife and race relations in Houston, TX in 1968. These are simply a few examples of the kinds of stories graphic novels are causing to break out into the mainstream and bring attention to as a result.

Inspiration for this current project, came through my own personal experience in hearing about the life of Robert Smalls, in brief, as part of a university event here at Claflin University. On November 19, 2017, as a member of the Claflin University Faculty, of hearing you speak at the 148thFounder’s Day at Claflin. It was there that, thanks to the speaker, President Michael Moore of the International African American Museum of Charleston, SC, that I first heard of his ancestor who was Robert Smalls. I was immediately shocked at having never heard of this story, but perhaps it is because I did not grow up in South Carolina, but rather in Louisiana. Even so, I immediately felt a passion to have the story of this extraordinary individual shared more widely. I kept thinking to myself for the next few days after just how much Robert Small’s life sounded like the life of a superhero. I could not shake how much his story needed more people to experience it, to visually absorb what a miraculous and courageous story his life was. There was something incredibly American about the story of Robert Smalls and what better way to try and engage younger generations than bringing this story or an adaptation of it to them via the form of a graphic novel.


Jonathan Evans


This graphic novel follows closely the Gullah Statesman: Robert Smalls from Slavery to Congress, 1839-1915 by Edward Miller, as well as other sources. The story opens with Robert Smalls and his family’s escape to freedom from slavery in Charleston, SC in 1863. It then flashes back to his early life and will follow him back to his escape. From there the graphic novel will chart Small’s life serving in the Union Navy during the Civil War and life under reconstruction. There will be an emphasis on demonstrating the importance of Robert Smalls’ life and contribution to the state of South Carolina. His inspirational story as South Carolina’s most influential African-American heroes will follow him through his post-Civil War career to the halls of the U. S. Congress and eventual advocate of civil rights.

Chapter Outline

Early stages of the project, these are going to be developed as things progress forward. General development is going to proceed as follows:

I. Introduction and Escape to Freedom

II. Early Life and Experiences

III. Young Adulthood, Marriage, and Life as a Slave

IV. Training during Civil War

V. Escape

VI. Freedom and Military Service

VII. Reconstruction

VIII. Government Service

IX. Post-Reconstruction and Advocacy

X. Epilogue

RS, Page 1RS, Page 2RS, Page 3







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