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About the Voyage
African American crewman sailing the high seas.
African American crewman sailing the high seas. (Credit: Courtesy of Mystic Seaport)
Voyage to Discovery represents an unprecedented opportunity to educate the public about African-American participation in U.S. maritime affairs since the period of pre-Civil War slavery to today.

According to historians, African-American seafarers were an important sector of the country’s maritime labor force from the 1740s to the 1860s.

Blacks shaped mariner culture and the identity of free black communities. Both free blacks and slaves found opportunity, dignity, and freedom as seamen despite harsh working conditions.

African-Americans worked as skippers and captains as well as whalers, lobstermen, fishermen and cooks. They also managed lighthouses, steered paddleboats and warships, along with owning seaside businesses.


African American sailor at the wheel.
African American sailor at the wheel. (Credit: Courtesy of Mystic Seaport)
Voyage to Discovery aspires to bring the stories of these largely unheralded pioneers to the public’s attention, with additional outreach directed toward African-American communities and students. Our hope is that these stories, which highlight African-Americans’ deep connection to the sea and celebrate the optimism of the human spirit, will inspire further curiosity and study, and help encourage greater ocean conservation awareness among African-Americans.

In recognition of African-American contributions to the country’s maritime heritage, NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries’ Maritime Heritage Program and Murrain Associates, Inc., along with the help of the National Association of Black Scuba Divers presents, this multi-media educational initiative to highlight African-American maritime history through education, archaeology, science, and underwater exploration.

Your participation in Voyage to Discovery is critical to the project’s success, and we invite you to share African-American stories on our Facebook page so that your story can be highlighted on the website. Stay tuned for our upcoming quest: To explore the ocean depths in an effort to identify a sunken shipwreck that best illustrates African-American maritime experience, calling attention to notable seafaring achievements by African-Americans past and present.


NABS member, Bill Murrain, and his sons preparing to dive off the coast of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
NABS member, Bill Murrain, and his sons preparing to dive off the coast of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. (Credit: NABS)


 

 
 
 
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