Name Princeton School of Public and International Affairs after Robert Smalls

Name Princeton School of Public and International Affairs after Robert Smalls

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Jay Lee started this petition to Princeton University

This petition asks that Princeton University name the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs to to Robert Smalls School of Public and International Affairs, after the former slave and congressman Robert Smalls.

Robert Smalls was born into slavery in South Carolina on April 5, 1839. He worked as a day laborer on the waterfront both as a rigger and a sailor. He attempted to buy his wife and family out of slavery but failed.

When the civil war began, he was forced to fight for the Confederacy onboard a ship named the Planter. Over several months, he and other slaves learned how to navigate the ship and planned their escape.

On May 13, 1862, Smalls and others stole the ship while the white crew members were absent and successfully bypassed five Confederate checkpoints (with each one ready to destroy their ship if an incorrect signal was given). After surrendering the ship to the Union and providing them invaluable information, Smalls then became a major advocate for authorizing African-Americans to fight for the Union and would also go on to serve as captain of both the Planter and the USS Keokuk during the remainder of the war. 

After the war, Smalls bought his former owner's home and even sheltered  members of the family that enslaved him because they had become poor. He served five terms in the US Congress as a representative and held a government position until 1913, when Woodrow Wilson's infamous color line kicked in. This color line enforced segregation and white supremacy by ensuring that no white government employee would be working under a black official although blacks were allowed to work in the lowest of government positions.

Robert Smalls was what Woodrow Wilson was not. He was a man concerned with the welfare of all Americans of all colors, a public servant who pushed for inclusion rather than exclusion, and a patriot who never turned his back on his nation even when the nation turned its back on him.

I ask that Princeton University, arguably the world's most prominent university, to redeem their mistakes by naming the School of Public and International Affairs, a school that emphasizes a "passion for service" after Robert Smalls, a man who devoted his life to the betterment of the nation.

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