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Speaker Series: Gordon C. Rhea – CANCELED

November 9 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

This event has been canceled – Please check your email for ticket refund information.

The Library Society welcomes Gordon C. Rhea for a fascinating lecture on his new biography, Stephen A. Swails: Black Freedom Fighter in the Civil War and Reconstruction. Swails, a Black soldier with the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, fought in the battle of Battery Wagner in Charleston Harbor, became the first Black soldier to be commissioned as an officer in the U.S. military, and became a major political figure during Reconstruction. As Speaker Pro Tempore of the South Carolina Senate, Swails was responsible for much of the legislation passed during those years. Rhea was fortunate enough to come into possession of Swails’ personal papers during his research, which adds a layer of intimacy to this incredible true story.

Tickets for this in-person event are $10 for CLS members and $15 for nonmembers, and can be purchased with the link below or by calling 843-723-9912. 

This event is in person and ticketed – To purchase your tickets, click here.

To purchase your copy of Stephen A. Swails: Black Freedom Fighter in the Civil War and Reconstruction, click here!

Please Note: We are continuing to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and greatly value the safety of our patrons. All events require masks for entry and are subject to change from in-person to Zoom format if safety protocols need to be amended. To stay up to date on this event’s details, we recommend you check this page regularly. All ticket sales are final.

About the Book:
Stephen Atkins Swails is a forgotten American hero. In an enthralling evening lecture, Author Gordon C. Rhea shares Swails’s incredible life story in his new biography, Stephen A. Swails: Black Freedom Fighter in the Civil War and Reconstruction. A free Black man in the North before the Civil War began, Swails exhibited such exemplary service in the 54th Massachusetts Infantry that he became the first African American commissioned as a combat officer in the United States military. After the Civil War, Swails remained in South Carolina, where he held important positions in the Freedmen’s Bureau, helped draft a progressive state constitution, served in the state senate, and secured legislation benefiting newly liberated Black citizens. Swails remained active in South Carolina politics after Reconstruction until violent Redeemers drove him from the state.

After Swails died in 1900, state and local leaders erased him from the historical narrative. Gordon C. Rhea’s biography, one of only a handful for any of the nearly 200,000 African Americans who fought in the Civil War or figured prominently in Reconstruction, is helping to restore Swails’s remarkable legacy. Swails’s life story is a saga of an indomitable human being who confronted deeply rooted racial prejudice in various institutions and reached significant milestones in the fight for racial equality, especially within the military. His is an inspiring story that is especially timely today.

About the Author:

A native of East Tennessee, Gordon C. Rhea earned a B.A. in History with honors from Indiana University, an M.A. in American History from Harvard University, and a J.D. from Stanford University Law School. He served as Special Assistant to the Chief Counsel of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Activities, as Assistant United States Attorney in Washington, D.C., and the United States Virgin Islands, and has been in the private practice of law for the past three decades. While growing up, he frequently visited Civil War battlefields with his father. His five-volume series on the Overland Campaign between Grant and Lee in Virginia in 1864 stands as the authoritative treatment of those battles. He has written numerous articles, is a frequent speaker at historical societies, and strongly supports the Civil War Trust and other organizations dedicated to preserving America’s battlefields.


November 9
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
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