Legion M, an entertainment investment firm that raises money to fund movies, has announced their intention to make a movie about a real American hero, Captain Robert Smalls. The proposed film is Defiant. Smalls (1839 -1915) was a super hero, but not a superhero. Legion M deciding that this film should be made is a step outside the fan oriented origins of the company.
Born into slavery in South Carolina, his owner hired him out, permitting him to keep a small portion of his wages. Smalls was trained as a longshoreman, a rigger, and a sailmaker, eventually learning to pilot a ship. During the early days of the Civil War, he piloted the ship he was working on, the CSS Planter out of Charleston Harbor and with a full cargo of weapons and ammunition sailed to Fort Sumter, where he surrendered ship and cargo to the United States Navy. Before leaving Charleston, Smalls asked permission for the crew’s families to come aboard, which was occasionally allowed for the sake of crew morale. Thus Robert Smalls freed not only himself and his crew, but their wives and children. After achieving this mass escape, he became a hero of northern abolitionists. He worked with the United States Navy until 1863, when he enlisted in the Union Army. He was present at seventeen major battles, and acquitted himself admirably.
After the Civil War, he spent nine months learning to read and write. His former owner’s home was seized for refusal to pay taxes. Smalls bought it and made his mother mistress of the home where she had once been an enslaved maidservant. He went into business with a freeborn Black merchant, Richard Gleaves, who was later voted lieutenant governor of South Carolina. He invested in a railroad and helped publish a Black-owned newspaper, the Beaufort Southern Standard. In 1868 868 he was a delegate to the South Carolina Constitutional Convention where he worked to make free, compulsory schooling available to all South Carolina children, Black or white. Also in 1868, he was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives. He would eventually serve in both houses of the state legislature. In 1874, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives.
Just as Davey Crockett served in Congress, so did Robert Smalls, back in the days when public service was considered an honorable vocation.
“He went off to Congress an’ served a spell, fixin’ up the Govern’ments an’ laws as well
Took over Washin’ton so we heered tell, an’ patched up the crack in the Liberty Bell
Davy, Davy Crockett, seein’ his duty clear!” The Ballad of Davey Crockett by Thomas Blackburn
Rep. Smalls served in Congress from 1875 to 1887. Until the mid-20th century, he was the longest serving African-American member of Congress.
Fans have already suggested Aldis Hodge (Hawkman in Black Adam, Hardison in Leverage) for the Civil War era Smalls and/or Billy Dee Williams for the elder statesman who refused the ambassadorship to Liberia.
Smalls’ life, an embodiment of the quintessential American success narrative, has long inspired talks of a biopic. Now, Legion M is making it a reality with a crew that includes Michael B. Moore, Smalls’ great-great-grandson, as associate producer, and Bill Duke, the esteemed actor/director/producer, as executive producer. Rob Edwards, known for his work on Disney’s The Princess and the Frog and Treasure Planet, is on board as the scriptwriter.
Robeert Smalls deserves to be more than a footnote in history every February, and ignored the other eleven months of the year. Legion M, like SciFi.Radio, is a fan-owned entertainment compny.
For more information. on Defiant, check out this link.
Legion M was founded in 2016, and describes itself as the first fan-owned entertainment company (Krypton Media Group, the parent company of SCIFI.radio, beat them to it by at least three years). Their total investment capital is around $10M, spread out over all their active projects, and their funds are sourced by equity crowd funding, deriving from investments by a bit over 40,000 members. – ed.
Susan Macdonald is the author of the children’s book “R is for Renaissance Faire”, as well as 26 short stories, mostly fantasy in “Alternative Truths”, “Swords and Sorceress #30”, Swords &Sorceries Vols. 1, 2, & 5, “Cat Tails” “Under Western Stars”, and “Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid”. Her articles have appeared on SCIFI.radio’s web site, in The Inquisitr, and in The Millington Star. She enjoys Renaissance Faires (see book above), science fiction conventions, Highland Games, and Native American pow-wows.