Art, Entertainment, and Culture

Medford Man to Speak About 1st Black Captain in US Navy Nov. 15th

steering to freedom coverAuthor Patrick Gabridge to Speak on the Amazing Story of Robert Smalls and the Steamship “Planter” at Medford’s Royall House and Slave Quarters

On Wednesday, November 15, 2017 at 7:30 p.m., playwright and novelist Patrick Gabridge, will talk about his novel “Steering to Freedom: From Slave to Civil War Hero,” the story of the first black captain in the U.S. Navy.

In May 1862, Robert Smalls, an enslaved ship’s pilot in Charleston, South Carolina, crafted a daring plan to steal the steamship “Planter” and deliver it, along with the crew and their families, to the Union blockade. After risking his life to escape slavery, Robert faced an even more difficult challenge: convincing Abraham Lincoln to enlist black troops. Based on a true story, “Steering to Freedom” tells the powerful and inspirational story of a young man who became the first black captain of a US military ship, while struggling to navigate a path to freedom for himself, his family, and his people.

The event will be held at the Royall House and Slave Quarters at 15 George Street, Medford, and is free to Royall House and Slave Quarters members. General admission is $10. Copies of “Steering to Freedom” will be available for purchase and signing at the event.

On-street parking is available, and the museum is located on the 96 and 101 MBTA bus routes. Please email for more information or visit Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

About the speaker: Patrick Gabridge is the author of three novels and dozens of plays. He has been a Playwriting Fellow with the Huntington Theatre Company and New Rep. His site-specific play about the day after the Boston Massacre, “Blood on the Snow,” was performed at Boston’s Old State House the last two summers. His short plays have received more than 1,000 productions from theaters and schools around the world.

About the museum: In the eighteenth century, the Royall House and Slave Quarters was home to the largest slaveholding family in Massachusetts and the enslaved Africans who made their lavish way of life possible. Architecture, household items, and archaeological artifacts bear witness to the intertwined stories of wealth and bondage, set against the backdrop of America’s quest for independence. The Slave Quarters is the only remaining such structure in the northern United States, and the Royall House is among the finest colonial-era buildings in New England.

– Submitted by Tom Lincoln, Royall House Director

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