Book Report

The McKissacks have teamed up again to bring African-American history to life for readers. The authors present a balance of information about whaling, prominent figures, and African-American history. The whaling industry was the foundation of many New England towns and played an important role in both the Revolutionary and Civil wars. Because of the mobility of ships' crews, many escaped slaves joined whaling companies to avoid run-ins with slave hunters. Information about the contributions and personalities of individual African Americans and other minority groups (including women) balance the book's emphasis on the financial importance of the whaling industry. Written for an older audience than the McKissacks's other books, this title would enhance any junior high or high school study of Moby Dick, the Underground Railroad, New England history, African-American industrialism, economic history, and anti-slavery history. The self-contained chapters and the index make this a good refe ence book for students, as well. This volume is a good companion to Jim Murphy's Gone A-Whaling (Clarion, 1999). Illustrations; b&w photos; charts; appendix; bibliography Highly Recommended. By Melinda Elzinga, young people''s librarian, Longmont, Colorado © 1999 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

Booklist Reviews

Gr. 6^-10. This fascinating look at the convergent histories of whaling and the abolitionist movement weaves seemingly disparate threads into a detailed tapestry. The authors trace the whaling industry from its colonial New England roots through the end of the nineteenth century, establishing it within a strong political, social, and economic context. The connections they describe are illuminating, including the use of whaling ships as vehicles on the Underground Railroad and as weapons in the blockade of two Confederate harbors. Whaling was a harsh profession that offered, if not equality, at least greater opportunity for African American men. Drawing heavily from primary sources, the McKissacks celebrate the accomplishments of such sailors, captains, shipbuilders, and inventors as Lewis Temple, the blacksmith who designed the first barbed harpoon. Less-skilled readers may have difficulty following the expansive narrative that pulls in details from several different angles, but history buffs and researchers should find the book's complexity rewarding. Appended is information on whale species, a time line, and a bibliography. ((Reviewed September 1, 1999)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

Horn Book Guide Reviews

The introduction links together slavery and whaling as ""part of the growth and development of the American economy,"" and the book shows the important role of the whalers in the abolitionist movement and the Underground Railroad. Incisive accounts are given of significant African Americans in this industry; seafaring women are not ignored; and life aboard a whaling ship is thoroughly documented. Bib., ind.Copyright 2000 Horn Book Guide Reviews

Horn Book Magazine Reviews

The popular image of whaling is often a romantic one, helped by Hollywood and potboiler stories. But real life on a whaling ship was dangerous, often disappointing, frequently unrewarding to the average sailor-and, as the McKissacks demonstrate here, an important facet of the African-American experience. In the process of re-examining nineteenth-century economic and social history, they also shed new light on that icon of American literature, Moby Dick. Their introduction sets the theme for what is to follow by linking together slavery and whaling as "part of the growth and development of the American economy from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries." Subsequent chapters not only reinforce this concept but also show the important role of the whalers in the abolitionist movement and in the success of the Under-ground Railroad. Incisive accounts are given of significant African Americans in this industry, including the great Frederick Douglass, who once worked as a ship's caulker in New Bedford, Massachusetts; Prince Boston, whose actions resulted in the abolition of slavery on Nantucket; Captain Paul Cuffe, the ship owner and entrepreneur who labored to eliminate discriminatory practices; and Lewis Temple, whose invention of the "toggle" harpoon revolutionized the industry. The role of the Quakers is carefully explored; seafaring women are not ignored; and life aboard a whaling ship is thoroughly documented. Exemplifying the attention given to research is the explanation of the correct call when a whale was sighted: "There blows!" not "There she blows!"-a small but significant detail. With an appendix of information about various types of whales, a list of dates indicating the historical intersection of whaling and slavery, and a bibliography that includes two videos. Index not seen. m.m.b. Copyright 1999 Horn Book Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

From the McKissacks (Young, Black, and Determined, 1998, etc.), a well-written, historical account of African-Americans who sailed on whaling ships off the East Coast between 1730 and 1880. The whaling industry provided great opportunities for free black seaman (and runaway slaves), many of whom could not find jobs elsewhere. The McKissacks note that during the ``golden age'' of whaling in the early 19th century, African-Americans comprised one-quarter of the crews; after the Civil War, their ranks swelled to half of all whalers. Not only does this book describe the whaling industry, it provides original maritime documents and historical black-and-white photographs from the Mystic Seaport Museum and the Kendall, New Bedford, Nantucket, and Martha's Vineyard whaling museums. Another thread of this fascinating history is the story of the abolitionist movement and the Underground Railroad for the Nantucket and New Bedford whalers. Beyond an overview, readers also meet some individuals, such as Lewis Temple, who developed the ``toggle'' harpoon design with barbs that stuck into the whale's body and wouldn't pull out easily, and John Mashow, who designed whale ships, including the Nimrod. The McKissacks describe an exciting period of maritime history, and celebrate an industry that chose workers on the basis of their skills, and not their skin. (index, not seen, b&w photos, appendix, chronology, bibliography). (Nonfiction. 8-13) Copyright 1999 Kirkus Reviews

Library Journal Reviews

Gr 6-9-A well-researched and detailed book chronicling the contributions of African Americans to the whaling industry. Many were drawn to jobs on whaling ships throughout the 1600-1800s, for while conditions were difficult, they were preferable to slavery. The authors go to great lengths to draw out the roles of African Americans, and while many of these connections are eye-opening, they are sometimes tenuous. The first half of the book, an introduction to the whales and the business surrounding their hunting, features significant men such as Prince Boston and Paul Cuffe, but also some who were less directly involved. Frederick Douglass did briefly work as a ship's caulker but many pages are devoted to describing aspects of his life that are irrelevant to whaling. Midway, the emphasis shifts to interesting aspects of life aboard ship, explaining phrases we use today that derive from whalers, superstitions of the seas, sailing songs and shanties, the story of the famous Essex, and the role of whalers in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. While the story becomes much more engaging at this point, the role of African Americans seems to have diminished importance as race is only occasionally mentioned. Overall, though, as an important and under-explored aspect of both African-American and nautical history, this book merits a place on the shelves in larger libraries and in African-American collections. However, for a more fascinating look at whaling, and one that integrates the African-American story along with the many other participants, look to Jim Murphy's Gone A-Whaling (Clarion, 1998).-Andrew Medlar, Chicago Public Library, IL Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 6-9-A well-researched and detailed book chronicling the contributions of African Americans to the whaling industry. Many were drawn to jobs on whaling ships throughout the 1600-1800s, for while conditions were difficult, they were preferable to slavery. The authors go to great lengths to draw out the roles of African Americans, and while many of these connections are eye-opening, they are sometimes tenuous. The first half of the book, an introduction to the whales and the business surrounding their hunting, features significant men such as Prince Boston and Paul Cuffe, but also some who were less directly involved. Frederick Douglass did briefly work as a ship's caulker but many pages are devoted to describing aspects of his life that are irrelevant to whaling. Midway, the emphasis shifts to interesting aspects of life aboard ship, explaining phrases we use today that derive from whalers, superstitions of the seas, sailing songs and shanties, the story of the famous Essex, and the role of whalers in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. While the story becomes much more engaging at this point, the role of African Americans seems to have diminished importance as race is only occasionally mentioned. Overall, though, as an important and under-explored aspect of both African-American and nautical history, this book merits a place on the shelves in larger libraries and in African-American collections. However, for a more fascinating look at whaling, and one that integrates the African-American story along with the many other participants, look to Jim Murphy's Gone A-Whaling (Clarion, 1998).-Andrew Medlar, Chicago Public Library, IL Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Voice of Youth Advocates Reviews

Quakers who settled Nantucket Island were against slavery, employing free blacks as well as fugitive slaves as they established the lucrative whaling industry. This title shows how Quakers shared their knowledge about whaling, giving their blackemployees responsible jobs and helping them to organize their own whaling fleets. Eventually all Nantucket African Americans were free, forming communities that included Caribbean, West African, and Indian peoples. As they prospered, these groupsbuilt their own schools, churches, and homes. Many African American, as well as white, whaling captains and their crews protected fugitive slaves who escaped to the North via the Underground Railroad. As the whaling industry flourished during thenineteenth century, many African Americans achieved stature as sea captains, boat builders, blacksmiths, and grocers. The book also contains journals of crew members describing whaling expeditions. Documentation from various museums includes crewlists, whaling vessels, photos of sea captains, and a handbill announcing a lecture by the famous abolitionists Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison. The appendix includes a graphic illustration of whale shapes and sizes and a listing ofeach type of whale. An added fillip is a time line from 1441 to 1917 that highlights important dates about whaling and the abolition of slavery. This excellent book offers students a unique perspective on how New England whaling history is entwined with the abolition of slavery, as well as the whaling industry's impact on the nineteenth-century American economy.-Sarah K. Herz. Copyright 2000 Voya Reviews