Stephen A. Swails: Black Freedom Fighter

Monday November 1

5:30 PM  –  6:30 PM

Stephen Atkins 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 war, Swails remained in South Carolina, where he held important positions in the Freedmen’s Bureau, helped draft a progressive state constitution, and served in the state senate. He remained active in South Carolina politics 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 restores Swails’s remarkable legacy.