Black Jacks: African American Seamen in the Age of Sail by W. Jeffrey Bolster

By W. Jeffrey Bolster

Few americans, black or white, realize the measure to which early African American background is a maritime heritage. W. Jeffrey Bolster shatters the parable that black seafaring within the age of sail used to be restricted to the center Passage. Seafaring used to be probably the most major occupations between either enslaved and loose black males among 1740 and 1865. Tens of hundreds of thousands of black seamen sailed on lofty clippers and modest coasters. They sailed in whalers, warships, and privateers. a few have been slaves, compelled to paintings at sea, yet through 1800 so much have been loose males, looking liberty and fiscal chance aboard send. Bolster brings an intimate figuring out of the ocean to this impressive bankruptcy within the formation of black the US. as a result of their strange mobility, sailors have been the eyes and ears to worlds past the constrained horizon of black groups ashore. occasionally assisting to smuggle slaves to freedom, they have been extra frequently a different conduit for information and knowledge of outrage to blacks. yet for all its possibilities, existence at sea was once tough. Blacks actively contributed to the Atlantic maritime tradition shared by means of all seamen, yet have been usually outsiders inside it. shooting that stress, Black Jacks examines not just how universal reviews drew black and white sailors together--even as deeply internalized prejudices drove them apart--but additionally how the which means of race aboard send replaced with time. Bolster strains the tale to the tip of the Civil battle, while emancipated blacks started to be systematically excluded from maritime paintings. Rescuing African American seamen from obscurity, this stirring account unearths the severe position sailors performed in supporting forge new identities for black humans in the USA. An epic story of the increase and fall of black seafaring, Black Jacks is African american citizens' freedom tale offered from a clean viewpoint. (19990101)

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Although the sassy sailor did not get the raise he wanted, Black Sailors in Plantation America  he bargained himself to legal freedom, and in the interim undoubtedly gave Grenadian slaves both an earful about London and the inspiration of his example. 26 The extent of West Indian slave seafaring challenges conventional images of late-eighteenth-century maritime commerce and its implications. Imagine a graphic rendition in black of the volcanic Caribbean archipelago. From each island radiate short spokes that dead-end, like antennae: the out-and-back daily voyages of slave fishermen.

39 New England slaves labored not only for ostentatious merchants such as Boston’s Peter Fanueil and Rhode Island’s Godfrey Malbone, but also for distillers, ropemakers, shopkeepers, yeomen, coopers, innkeepers, tanners, and victualers—ambitious men who wished to  BLACK JACKS emulate their betters. Twenty percent of the male slaves in Massachusetts’s Suffolk County during the 1740s were owned by mariners, shipwrights, and fishermen; many others were held by shipowning merchants or by nonmariners who nevertheless hired out their slaves as seamen.

Captain Edward Low reputedly extended no welcome to black sailors at all, duplicitously enslaving those who attempted to join. Pirates, moreover, often forced themselves on slave women, leaving “prudent” women alone. In 1683 one crew traded a ship for a slaver with sixty African  BLACK JACKS women, departing on what they hoped would be a saturnalia aboard the renamed Batchelor’s Delight. To many white pirates the majority of blacks were pawns, workers, objects of lust, or a source of ready cash.

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