Daily Archives: May 25, 2021

Whaling Captains of Color: America’s First Meritocracy: Skip Finley

The history of whaling as an industry on this continent has been well-told in books, including some that have been bestsellers, but what hasn’t been told is the story of whaling’s leaders of color in an era when the only other option was slavery. Whaling was one of the first American industries to exhibit diversity. A man became a captain not because he was white or well connected, but because he knew how to kill a whale. Along the way, he could learn navigation and reading and writing. Whaling presented a tantalizing alternative to mainland life.

Working with archival records at whaling museums, in libraries, from private archives and interviews with people whose ancestors were whaling masters, Finley culls stories from the lives of over 50 black whaling captains to create a portrait of what life was like for these leaders of color on the high seas.

Each time a ship spotted a whale, a group often including the captain would jump into a small boat, row to the whale, and attack it, at times with the captain delivering the killing blow. The first, second, or third mate and boat steerer could eventually have opportunities to move into increasingly responsible roles. Finley explains how this skills-based system propelled captains of color to the helm.

The book concludes as facts and factions conspire to kill the industry, including wars, weather, bad management, poor judgment, disease, obsolescence, and a non-renewable natural resource. Ironically, the end of the Civil War allowed the African Americans who were captains to exit the difficult and dangerous occupation–and make room for the Cape Verdean who picked up the mantle, literally to the end of the industry.


“Not so long ago, many people of color in the United States did not have many options for employment. When they did find it, they faced an uphill battle in advancing up the ladder. However, in the book, Whaling Captains of Color: America’s First Meritocracy, Skip Finley reveals that the whaling industry was one place where a man of color could move up through the ranks and become Master (captain) of a ship. Finley shows how Native Americans, American Blacks, and Cape Verdeans worked on this whaling vessels and became masters of them. Not only does he relate their individual stories but he mixes it with what the whaling industry was and life aboard a whaling vessel. These men did face racism, but on a whaling vessel where life was hard and death always near, whether or not a man could do his job well overcame whatever racism the crew may have felt. This book does a good job of relating the accomplishments of these men of color and their role in making whaling a successful endeavor. I recommend this book for anyone interested in whaling or the achievements of people of color.” –Ghost Reader

“Whaling Captains of Color is not just a collection of logbooks, photos, and graphics; it is stories of the men of color who rose to the pinnacle of their profession: Master of the Vessel. The author has painstakingly searched logs, articles, and firsthand accounts to bring to life the meritocracy of the sea. But this is not a glossy sea story. It is the down-anddirty of an industry that thrived from 1700 until the early 20th century, a chronicle of the individuals and families who gained a level of success unknown, anywhere else, in the lives of people of color in their time. The book is also an in-depth study of the whaling industry, race, maritime lore, family structure, religion, nepotism, genealogical integration, and education. It is an excellent primer of the whaling industry, and a salute to the men of color who helped to sustain it for 150 years.” –WoodenBoat

“This book is the result of extensive research into the whaling trade and the lives of some of its captains…. In writing this book, the author knew he needed to tell the story of whaling to any potential readers who might otherwise be unfamiliar with the industry. He does an admirable job and provides wonderful portraits of the many brave men who reached the pinnacle of their careers because of their knowledge and skills. Although planned as an excellent sea story, by being published during the Black Lives Matter movement, Whaling Captains of Color will be read by many people enthralled to discover that so many black men were in command of their ships and their destinies.” –Pirates and Privateers

“In Whaling Captains of Color, Island writer Skip Finley has produced an extraordinary work that will change your perspective on the highly romanticized whaling era in American history, and the role of people of color in a trade that brought whalers fortunes and death.” –Martha’s Vineyard Times

Whaling Captains of Color: America’s First Meritocracy is an examination of a fascinating quirk in America’s history of race relations…. It follows its cast of characters to their lives after the whaling industry had ended, continuing to illuminate an important chapter in American history.” –Vineyard Gazette

“Finley follows the history of more than fifty black and native Americans who became whale ship captains, ship owners, and chandlers (running businesses supplying whaling ships). Revealed is a fascinating tale of the rise and fall of family whaling and shipping dominions run by men of color. This is placed against the backdrop of both American society and whaling during the period. Whaling Captains of Color examines both an industry critical to America’s industrialization, the people that worked in it, and the dynamics that created a color-blind meritocracy in a color-conscious era.” –Ricochet

Whaling Captains of Color: America’s First Meritocracy is a comprehensive yet unusual view of a storied fishery that was especially hazardous. It was partly manned by men of colour who braved their way into positions of leadership and responsibility. This narrative is a guidepost into a welcome aspect of whaling literature, one that has received little attention. The author’s many tables, appendices and bibliography should be particularly useful to scholars of this industry and maritime historian in general. I highly recommend Finley’s latest work.” –The Northern Mariner / Le marin du nord

African American Historical and Genealogical Society Award – Non-Fiction/Regional History

Whaling Captains of Color by Skip Finley is a fascinating exploration of the lives of multicultural whalemen, mostly unknown to us until now, during the eighteenth and nineteenth century in America….Skip Finley thoughtfully honors and illustrates how the men of color in this book shaped commercial whaling, one of America’s earliest global industries. I highly recommend this book.” –Alicia Carney, Nantucket Book Festival

“In this engaging new volume, Skip Finley has written a comprehensive account of the over fifty sailors of color who rose to captain America’s great whaling ships. Meticulously researched, Whaling Captains of Color provides an overview of the 200 years of industrial whaling, a profession in which a relative meritocracy existed. In addition, Finley provides a critically important analysis of the social and legal conditions on land which encouraged so many people of color to brave the dangers of the sea.” –Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University

“Much more than a prodigious work of scholarship, Whaling Captains of Color is also an entertaining read that puts the focus where it properly belongs: on the multicultural essence of a fishery that spanned the globe. Highly recommended.” –Nathaniel Philbrick, author of In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex

“The story of people of color in the whaling industry is a fascinating and hitherto unexplored subject enough, but Skip Finley’s brilliant survey of the black captains and crew of the New England whale fisheries takes it one step further. His swift and sure narrative is excitingly told, bringing a fresh and vibrant focus to a vital part of American, and indeed global, history.” –Philip Hoare, author of The Whale

“Skip Finley provides a fascinating portrait of the turbulent and fraught world of the men of color who not only were whalemen, but also became leaders in one of America’s most iconic industries. Whaling Captains of Color is a most welcome and long overdue addition to the literature, and one which will hopefully spur others to dig deeper into this important aspect of whaling history.” –Eric Jay Dolin, author of Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America

About the Author

Skip Finley is a former broadcasting executive who was responsible for over 40 U.S. radio stations and experienced success in all areas of radio. Attempting retirement since age 50, he keeps returning to communications, currently in marketing at the Vineyard Gazette Media Group on Martha’s Vineyard, where he summered since 1955, deciding to become a writer. For five years Finley wrote the weekly Oak Bluffs Town Column and is a contributor to several publications in the areas of whaling and history.

  • Publisher : Naval Institute Press; Illustrated edition (June 15, 2020)
  • Language : English
  • Hardcover : 304 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1682475093
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1682475096

Native American Whalemen and the World: Indigenous Encounters and the Contingency of Race: Nancy Shoemaker

In the nineteenth century, nearly all Native American men living along the southern New England coast made their living traveling the world’s oceans on whaleships. Many were career whalemen, spending twenty years or more at sea. Their labor invigorated economically depressed reservations with vital income and led to complex and surprising connections with other Indigenous peoples, from the islands of the Pacific to the Arctic Ocean. At home, aboard ship, or around the world, Native American seafarers found themselves in a variety of situations, each with distinct racial expectations about who was “Indian” and how “Indians” behaved. Treated by their white neighbors as degraded dependents incapable of taking care of themselves, Native New Englanders nevertheless rose to positions of command at sea. They thereby complicated myths of exploration and expansion that depicted cultural encounters as the meeting of two peoples, whites and Indians.

Highlighting the shifting racial ideologies that shaped the lives of these whalemen, Nancy Shoemaker shows how the category of “Indian” was as fluid as the whalemen were mobile.

Editorial Reviews


Challenging earlier studies that focus almost entirely on the exploitative aspects of whaling or on the stereotypical images of Indian harpoonists, the author shows that Native Americans served at every level of the industry, including as captains of ships.–Choice

Immeasurably improve[s] our knowledge of Native American whalers, their lives, and their work. No doubt [this book] will become [a] historical classic.–Journal of Pacific History

Meticulously researched and skillfully structured.–Journal of American History

[A] rich, detailed, and nuanced portrait of Native American whalemen.–International Journal of Maritime History

This outstanding book . . . exemplifies the best of new oceanic history.–The New England Quarterly

[An] outstanding and wide-ranging work that should offer a lot to geographers interested in how cultural encounters and the contingencies of race played out in one of the world’s first truly globalized and mobile industries.–Journal of Historical Geography

A monumental, erudite study of a fleeting industry that was buttressed by a racial and ethnic mosaic. . . . A well-told tale of prejudice, perseverance, and pride of accomplishment. . . . A welcome addition to the literature of whaling and maritime history.–The Northern Mariner/Le marin du nord

Shoemaker is a social historian extraordinaire. . . . This is an impressive book that places Native Americans in the midst of global history and sheds new light on the shifting boundaries of race and indigeneity in the nineteenth century. It makes an important contribution to the scholarship of race, indigenous peoples, labor, and maritime history.–Western Historical Quarterly


This fascinating study of Native American whalemen is an impressive achievement: a careful, deeply informed, and insightful analysis of the complexities and variable nature of identity. Shoemaker successfully recovers the lives of some of the most elusive historical subjects, working-class men from marginalized communities, whose names, residences, nationalities, and ethnicities all varied dramatically from place to place and over the course of their lives. Identifying and locating these shape-shiftings is at the center of Shoemaker’s persuasive argument about the contingency of race.–Lisa Norling, author of Captain Ahab Had a Wife: New England Women and the Whalefishery, 1720–1870

Native American Whalemen and the World is one of the most original studies of race making that I’ve read. It is distinguished in its focus on American Indians–both in terms of their racial thoughts and actions and in how whites thought about and treated them–and in its tracing of American Indian whalers wherever they sailed. Shoemaker challenges easy categories of indigeneity while taking the reader on a global tour that extends from the shores of New England and Long Island to the Arctic, the Azores, California, Hawaii, Tahiti, Fiji, and beyond. A superb piece of scholarship.–David J. Silverman, George Washington University

  • Publisher : University of North Carolina Press; 1st Edition (April 27, 2015)
  • Language : English
  • Hardcover : 320 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1469622572
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1469622576
  • Item Weight : 1.34 pounds
  • Dimensions : 6.33 x 1.01 x 9.59 inches

What You Can Do To Save Your Mindset And The Earth – By Author Dahr Jamail

The Real Truth About Health

Published on May 25, 2021

What You Can Do To Save Your Mindset And The Earth – By Author Dahr Jamail

Dahr Jamail, a Truthout staff reporter, is the author of The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption (The New Press, 2019), The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan (Haymarket Books, 2009), and Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq (Haymarket Books, 2007). Jamail reported from Iraq for more than a year, as well as from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Turkey over the last 10 years, and has won the Izzy Award and the Martha Gellhorn Award for Investigative Journalism, among other awards. His third book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible, co-written with William Rivers Pitt, is available now on Amazon. He lives and works in Washington State.

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Passionate believers in whole food plant based diets, no chemicals, minimal pharmaceutical drugs, no GMO’s. Fighting to stop climate change and extinction.

Talking Afropean

TORCH | The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities

Streamed live on Oct 22, 2020

TORCH Goes Digital! presents a series of live online events Big Tent – Live Events! This event is part of the Humanities Cultural Programme, one of the founding stones for the future Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities.

Talking Afropean: Johny Pitts in conversation with Elleke Boehmer and Simukai Chigudu about his award-winning book.

This Writers Make Worlds and TORCH panel discussion features the author Johny Pitts in conversation about his ground-breaking travelogue Afropean, his 2019 notes on a journey around contemporary Black Europe.

Johny Pitts will explore together with Oxford academics Simukai Chigudu and Elleke Boehmer questions of black history, hidden archives, decolonization and community, and what it is to be black in Europe today. Hailed as a work that reframes Europe, Afropean was the 2020 winner of the Jhalak Prize.

Biographies: Johny Pitts is a writer, photographer and broadcast journalist, and the author of Afropean (2019). His work exploring African-European identity has received numerous awards, including a Decibel Penguin Prize and the Jhalak Prize. He has contributed words and images to the Guardian, the New Statesman and the New York Times.

Elleke Boehmer is a writer, historian, and critic. She is Professor of World Literature at the University of Oxford, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. Her most recent books are Postcolonial Poetics (2018) and To the Volcano (2019). She is currently on a British Academy Senior Research Fellowship working on a project called ‘Southern Imagining’.

Simukai Chigudu is Associate Professor of African Politics and Fellow of St Antony’s College, Oxford. Simukai is interested in the social politics of inequality in Africa and his first book The Political Life of an Epidemic: Cholera, Crisis and Citizenship in Zimbabwe came out in 2020. Prior to joining the academy, Simukai was a medical doctor in the UK’s National Health Service.


With thanks to Ultimate Picture Palace, Oxford, Oxford Digital Media, and Tom Kirkby.

Amid Gaza Ceasefire, Israel Arrests Hundreds & Continues “Colonial Violence” in Occupied Pal estine

Democracy Now!

Published on May 24, 2021

The United Nations is appealing to the world to address the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza following the 11-day Israeli assault that killed 248 Palestinians, including 66 children, and injured more than 1,700 people. The U.N. is estimating that at least 6,000 residents of Gaza were left homeless after their homes were bombed by Israel, which has maintained a blockade on Gaza for the past 14 years.

Tensions also remain high in Jerusalem, where dozens of Jewish settlers backed by Israeli security forces stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound Friday and Israeli authorities are continuing the campaign to forcibly evict Palestinians from their homes so Jewish settlers can move in. Mohammed El-Kurd, a Palestinian writer and poet who is organizing to save his family’s home in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem, says Israeli aggression against Palestinians has continued despite the ceasefire. “Colonial violence is still business as usual in occupied Palestine at large,” El-Kurd says.

I Will Not Yield My Values: Fired AP Journalist Emily Wilder Speaks Out After Right-Wing Smears

Democracy Now!

Published on May 25, 2021

In her first TV interview, we speak with Emily Wilder, the young reporter fired by the Associated Press after she was targeted in a Republican smear campaign for her pro-Palestinian activism in college. Wilder is Jewish and was a member of Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace at Stanford University before she graduated in 2020. She was two weeks into her new job with the AP when the Stanford College Republicans singled out some of her past social media posts, triggering a conservative frenzy. The AP announced Wilder’s firing shortly thereafter, citing unspecified violations of its social media policy. “Less than 48 hours after Stanford College Republicans began to post about me, I was fired,” says Wilder. “I was not given an explanation for what social media policy I had violated.” Over 100 AP journalists have signed an open letter to management protesting the decision to fire Wilder, which came just days after Israel demolished the building housing AP offices and other media organizations in Gaza. Journalism professor Janine Zacharia, a former Jerusalem bureau chief for The Washington Post who taught Wilder at Stanford, says the episode is an example of how much pressure news organizations face on Middle East coverage. “I am very aware, perhaps more than most, to the sensitivities around the questions of bias and reporting on the conflict,” says Zacharia. “In this case it wasn’t about bias.”

WATCH LIVE: Witnesses from California, Nevada, NOAA testify on drought conditions in Western U.S.

PBS NewsHour

Started streaming 22 minutes ago

Officials from the National Institutes of Health Testify on Proposed 2022 Budget | LIVE

NowThis News

Started streaming 4 minutes ago

FAUCI TESTIFIES ON NIH BUDGET PROPOSAL: Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Francis Collins, and other officials from the National Institutes of Health appear before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services to discuss the agency’s budget request. Under Pres. Biden’s proposal, NIH would receive an additional $9 billion in funding, which includes $6.5 billion to create the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, which would study cancer and diseases.

Elizabeth Kolbert in conversation with Rachel McDevitt: Under a White Sky

Elizabeth Kolbert in conversation with Rachel McDevitt: Under a White Sky

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Elizabeth Kolbert will present and discuss her new work, Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future. In the book, Kolbert examines how the very sorts of interventions that have imperiled our planet are increasingly seen as the only hope for its salvation. By turns inspiring, terrifying, and darkly comic, Under a White Sky is an utterly original examination of the challenges we face. Kolbert will be in conversation with StateImpact PA’s Rachel McDevitt.

This event is in partnership with WITF and StateImpact PA. Book sales are encouraged through the Midtown Scholar Bookstore.