In the 1800’s Black men, both free and enslaved, comprised 22% of those who worked on the water, the primary way to move goods at that time. They traveled from northern to southern ports, throughout the Caribbean, to Europe, Australasia and Japan and returned to their communities with stories of life outside the slaveocracy of the U.S.
Sailors wrote the first six autobiographies of Black Americans. Active agents on the Underground Railroad, their freedom messages were so stirring that after the rebellion led by sailor, Denmark Vesey, South Carolina enacted the 1822 Quarantine Laws/Negro Seaman Acts, jailing these men when they came to port.
My play Shallow Brown: Thessalonia and the Free Sailor tells of the love, family, suffering and ultimately triumph of these brave yet unsung freedom fighters and how they helped us free ourselves.
Please enjoy a bibliography about our Black sailor heroes I put together for you, for more information.