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Publisher's Summary

Facing death rather than enslavement - a story of one man's triumphant choice and ultimate rise to national hero. 

It was a mild May morning in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1862, the second year of the Civil War, when a 23-year-old slave named Robert Smalls did the unthinkable and boldly seized a Confederate steamer. With his wife and two young children hidden on board, Smalls and a small crew ran a gauntlet of heavily armed fortifications in Charleston Harbor and delivered the valuable vessel and the massive guns it carried to nearby Union forces. 

To be unsuccessful was a death sentence for all. Smalls' courageous and ingenious act freed him and his family from slavery and immediately made him a Union hero while simultaneously challenging much of the country's view of what African-Americans were willing to do to gain their freedom. 

After his escape, Smalls served in numerous naval campaigns off Charleston as a civilian boat pilot and eventually became the first Black captain of an Army ship. In a particularly poignant moment Smalls even bought the home that he and his mother had once served in as house slaves. 

©2017 Cate Lineberry (P)2018 Tantor

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What listeners say about Be Free or Die

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Great Book about a Great man

I live in Beaufort so I'm partial to stories about our history. And no man of Beaufort was as great of a mam as the Honorable Robert Smalls. This book should be adapted into a screenplay and made into a movie.

6 people found this helpful

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My favorite Civil War hero

I only discovered Robert Smalls a couple years ago on my favorite history podcast and was blown away by him. Also blown away by the fact that I’d never heard of him. Why is he not in our schools’ history textbooks, and why are there not statues of him in South Carolina now!? This book did him justice - I really enjoyed it.

4 people found this helpful

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Wow!

What an amazing person, I can't believe I never heard of him before, truly inspiring.

3 people found this helpful

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very good book

outstanding take on history about a person who lived the true meaning of free man and dedication to service of his country

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Extremely well done!

This book not only does an excellent job of recounting Robert Smalls extraordinary life, pursuit of freedom and contributions to this country, it also gives the reader a feel for the complex climate of the times by examining the political policies and players involved that lead to and followed the failed rebellious coup of the Confederacy.

1 person found this helpful

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Must read. fascinating history

I've wanted to read about Robert Smalls for a long time. this book did not disappoint. This is important, fascinating history that all Americans should read.

1 person found this helpful

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Introduced to someone...

My family and I were introduced to someone we did not know about. An American Hero that needs to be known by more.

1 person found this helpful

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A Story That Needs To Be Heard...

I searched this out after hearing a podcast that summed up Smalls' life in 20 minutes (and wanting more). This is genuinely an American Story that deserves to be heard, and needs to be told...
While listening, I was at first put off a bit by the narrators' "imitations" of historic characters' quotations - I felt it was distracting and a bit hokey at first... the more I listened, the more I realized that the way this is executed is actually the best possible way to handle the numerous quotes.
This mans' story should absolutely be conveyed in the medium of film. What an epic life Smalls led, and what an impact he had.
I genuinely enjoyed learning about this inspiring man and the lives that intertwined with him. An awesome book, and well read. So grateful to Cate Lineberry for telling this tale, and illuminating me.

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Boring

Maybe be a good topic but a terrible presentation, boring as can be. made me want to drive my work truck into a deer!!

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I love this book❤️. Couldn't stop listening.

If you love black history this is a must have. The story of Robert Smalls is great and it was performed properly by the narrator. Loved the end where he had already completely changed the life of himself and his family, yet still worked to improve himself, and never let dirt be thrown on his name.