Captains of Color

In rare instances, men of color advanced to the position of captain. This occurred most often in the latter half of the 19th century when whaling was in decline. Captain William T. Shorey worked his way up from greenhand to become the only black captain in the New Bedford fleet in 1886. George Gilley, a Hawaiian captain, commanded the brig William H. Allen on Arctic whaling expeditions. Amos Haskins, a Wampanoag Indian from New Bedford, led the whaling ship Massasoit in the early 1850s.

Whaling men from all walks of life agreed that their experience at sea set them apart from their countrymen. They sometimes faced condescension and scorn from certain land-based Americans who increasingly believed that the whaling was primitive and morally suspect. In the nineteenth century, the messy and irregular work of racially mixed crews also challenged new, "scientific" justifications for clear racial distinctions.

next page >

image of amos_haskins

New Bedford Whaling Museum