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BLACK HANDS, WHITE SAILS by Patricia C. McKissack

BLACK HANDS, WHITE SAILS

The Story of African-American Whalers

By Patricia C. McKissack (Author) , Fredrick L. McKissack (Author)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-590-48313-7
Publisher: Scholastic

From the McKissacks (Young, Black, and Determined, 1998, etc.), a well-written, historical account of African-Americans who sailed on whaling ships off the East Coast between 1730 and 1880. The whaling industry provided great opportunities for free black seaman (and runaway slaves), many of whom could not find jobs elsewhere. The McKissacks note that during the “golden age” of whaling in the early 19th century, African-Americans comprised one-quarter of the crews; after the Civil War, their ranks swelled to half of all whalers. Not only does this book describe the whaling industry, it provides original maritime documents and historical black-and-white photographs from the Mystic Seaport Museum and the Kendall, New Bedford, Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard whaling museums. Another thread of this fascinating history is the story of the abolitionist movement and the Underground Railroad for the Nantucket and New Bedford whalers. Beyond an overview, readers also meet some individuals, such as Lewis Temple, who developed the “toggle” harpoon design with barbs that stuck into the whale’s body and wouldn’t pull out easily, and John Mashow, who designed whale ships, including the Nimrod. The McKissacks describe an exciting period of maritime history, and celebrate an industry that chose workers on the basis of their skills, and not their skin. (index, not seen, b&w photos, appendix, chronology, bibliography). (Nonfiction. 8-13)