From Colonial times to the twentieth century, men of African ancestry were active in New England’s whaling industry as sailors, blacksmiths, shipbuilders, officers, & owners.

By the 1840s, Black sailors constituted about one-sixth of the labor force; and by 1900, African Americans and Cape Verdeans had become a majority.


“There is not that nice distinction made in the whaling as there is in the naval and merchant services; a coloured man is only known and looked upon as a MAN, and is promoted in rank according to his ability and skill to perform the same duties as a white man; his opportunities for accumulating pecuniary means -- investing his earnings in whaling capital, is equally the same.”

By an African-American journalist who had served in a New Bedford whaler, 1846.

© Copyright 2001 Old Dartmouth Historical Society / New Bedford Whaling Museum