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Værker af W. Jeffrey Bolster

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I read this book with my co-workers to see if we can better reflect the experience of Black sailors in the archival records of ships and merchant mariners. It's a broad overview of Black sailors in America in the 18th and 19th centuries. It traces the sailing traditions of Black Americans to their African roots. In some cases, enslaved Black men served as sailors and ship's pilots at the behest of their enslavers. Free Black men found a greater level of freedom and equality in the maritime trades than in other areas of work available to them, although the practices of ship discipline were contradictorily some of the most restrictive to liberty. A great percentage of New England and New York Black men found work in the maritime trades in the 1800s although at the cost of separation of families and loss of community leadership.

There are numerous fascinating stories in this book about people I'd like to learn more about. These include Richard "King Dick Crafus who lead the Black US Navy sailors held prisoner at Dartmoor during and after the War of 1812, and who remained a revered member of Boston's Black community decades later. Robert Smalls was a pilot who escaped from slavery in Charleston during the Civil War and turned a gunboat over to the Union Navy. David Walker distributed the abolitionist tract "Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World" while working at a second-hand clothing shop near the wharves of Boston. Honestly, these stories should be made into movies.

Favorite Passages:
“Whereas white seamen were among the most marginalized men in white society, black seamen found access to privileges, worldliness, and wealth denied to most slaves.” - p. 36
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Othemts | 1 anden anmeldelse | May 8, 2022 |
Fascinating book: though necessarily a little short on quantitative conclusions, it introduces thoroughly the issues faced by free and enslaved African Americans after the American Revolution up to the Civil War and after who went to sea to find a greater measure of freedom, opportunity, and security. /i/Black Jacks/-i/ referred to and quoted a range of original sources (such as /i/The Life of John Thompson/-i/, published 1856, by a slave who escaped and went to sea on a whaling ship. Bolster is careful to express positives and negatives of a life at sea for black men in America, which changed from period to period, region to region. Black men, both free and slaves, made up a significant portion of American crews —and other nations' as well, after the Revolutionary War, and especially by about 1810. War made jobs for all sailors less available. After the war, as time went on, Southern anxiety about anti-slavery activism grew and paranoia about free black sailors mingling with slaves resulted in laws in Southern states that required black sailors to be incarcerated in jails when ashore, while this of course did not apply to white sailors. Though the latter may have been looked down upon as crude, they weren't seen as a danger to the structure of Southern life. Bolster indicates that African American seamen made a big impression, nonetheless, on the seafaring culture of America, just as the experience of success and freedom at sea made a difference to African American culture then and thereafter.… (mere)
NatalieSW | 1 anden anmeldelse | Sep 23, 2015 |
A tremendously important book which deserves a very wide audience. Bolster's chronicle of the "changes in the sea" wrought by human activity in the north Atlantic through the early days of the twentieth century is a remarkably thorough, well-researched, and one cannot but hope, instructive guide to how we as a society might be able to tackle current and future environmental challenges before irreparable damage to the planet and its ecosystems occurs.

Drawing on an impressive range of archival and published sources, Bolster tracks both fishing activities (technological advances, commercial practices, changing markets and the rise of industrial-level harvesting techniques) and the various local, state, and federal policies designed to conserve or protect fishing stocks over the centuries. He captures the tension between generations of fisherman noticing and being concerned about decreases in fish population, always at odds with their motivation to fish harder and more intensively so as to keep themselves in business. And Bolster tracks the slow development of scientific understanding of how ocean ecosystems function and the ways in which overfishing impacts the living ocean for the long term. Importantly, he notes that often during the 19th century it as the small-scale fishermen who were calling for protections, while the scientific poobahs tended to side with the industrialists in arguing that no human actions could possibly change the "immortal sea," which would, they argued, remain unchangingly productive no matter what.

Bolster's final argument, that a "precautionary course in the face of environmental uncertainties" would have been better for the world in the long run, is a theme that extends far beyond the particular themes of this volume. One hopes that policymakers will read and learn from this book, that historians will use it as an excellent example of their craft, and that readers will enjoy Bolster's readable prose and the fascinating details he's packed between these covers.
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JBD1 | Apr 8, 2013 |


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