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Black History month 2015

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The Stephen B. Luce Library Presents

The Stephen B. Luce Library CelebratesBlack History Month 2015

Prolific African Americans in Maritime History, Society, and Industry

1The Origins of Black History Month

Dr. Carter G. WoodsonFounded by NAACP leader, historian, and educator Dr. Carter G. Woodson in 1926, Negro History Week originated as a way to bring the contributions of African Americans into the publics historical awareness.

We should emphasize not Negro History, but the Negro in history. What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world void of national bias, race hate, and religious prejudice.- Dr. Carter G. Woodson on the founding Negro History Week, 1926

February was selected due to its coincidence with the birthdays of two men who fought for abolition: Abraham Lincoln, and Frederick Douglass.

Negro History Week ultimately became Black History Month in 1976.


African Americans would often find better treatment in the seafaring industry than traditional shore-side jobs due to the skilled nature of the position. Popular positions included fishermen, watermen, ship repairmen, boat builders, stevedores, and merchant seamen.

The ability to travel and work aboard ships permitted African American sailors greater freedoms than those found ashore.

The mobility of African American seafarers additionally allowed them to spread the anti-slavery message through a variety of ports, and also assist in the escape of fugitive slaves.African Americans in Maritime History

Privateersman also known as King Dick.

Prominent African American leader in Boston after the War of 1812.

African American seamen like Crafus filled almost 20% of berths during the War of 1812 and were integral to the success of the United States against the British.

Sources: Bolster, 1997; Afro-American Red Star 119(30)Richard Crafus

Captain George Henry

Although enslaved, Henry rose to the ranks of Captain for his service throughout the Chesapeake Bay during the antebellum period.

Commander of cargo schooners.

Proficient navigator along the shallows of Marylands bayside shores.

Source: Black Hands, Blue Seas; Bolster, 1997

Robert Smalls

Born a slave, Smalls became adept at navigation through South Carolina waters at a young age.

Already considered a pilot and waterman, Smalls became a hero of the Civil War when he commandeered the Confederate gunboat, Planter, and escaped with a crew of slaves through the Union blockade, immediately surrendering the vessel to Union forces.

Served as a congressman from South Carolina during the Reconstruction.

Source: Black Hands, Blue Seas; Bolster, 1997

Captain Richard Etheridge

Captain Etheridge was a Union Army veteran and the first African American to fully command a life-saving station in the United States in 1879.

Notably, his stations crew was entirely African American as well.

Rigorously trained his men in preparation for life-saving situations at the Pea Island Life-Saving Station in North Carolina.

Rescued the full complement from the wreck of the E.S. Newman in 1896 nine adults, and the Captains three-year old child.

Received the Gold Life-Saving Medal from the Coast Guard posthumously in 1996 for his valor and success during the E.S. Newman rescue.

Source: Wright, 2000

Matthew A. Henson

First African American explorer to the Arctic.

Worked aboard a steamship as a cabin boy in his early years.

Trekked with Robert E. Peary on the 1909 U.S. expedition to the North Pole.

Posthumously awarded the Hubbard Medal in 2000, the highest honor from the National Geographic Society.

Source: Black Hands, Blue Seas

Teacher, conductor, and composer originally from the U.S. Virgin Islands. He became the first African American bandmaster of the U.S. Navy in 1917.

Set precedence and encouragement for the first fully integrated Navy band in 1942.

Served during WWI and WWII.

A bandmaster must have confidence in his general ability and in his knowledge of the music he handles. He not only must know, but also must know that he knows. In other words, a leader not only must know music, but also must have confidence in his ear, in his rhythmic precision. Moreover, the bandmaster needs to be more than a leader; he must be a teacher as well. -Alton Augustus Adams, Sr.

Alton Augustus Adams, Sr.

LT Joseph C. Jenkins LT Clarence SamuelsFirst African Americans to serve in the U.S. Coast Guard, beginning in the 1940s.

Admitted into the USCG ranks a full year before the Navy began commissioning African Americans.

Source: Nalty, 2003

LT Clarence Samuels & LT Joseph C. Jenkins

LT Harriet Ida Pickens and ENS Frances Eliza Willis

Graduates from the final class of the Naval Reserve Midshipmens School at Northampton, Massachusetts in December 1944.

First African American Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) commissioned in the U.S. Navy.

Source: Nalty, 2003

Melvin G. Williams Sr. and Melvin G. Williams Jr.

Source: US Navy

Master Chief Melvin G. Williams Sr., USN (Ret.), served for 27 years aboard aircraft carriers, submarines, and surface ships. He has been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal and six Good Conduct Medals.

Vice Admiral Melvin G. Williams Jr., USN (Ret.), is a 1978 graduate of the Naval Academy and served 32 years in the Fleet, submarines, and Joint assignments. He has received both military and civic awards for leadership.

Authors of book, Navigating the Seven Seas. Describes the leadership experiences and provides inspirational anecdotes from father-son careers in the Navy.

Randolph Osborne

Became the first African American port captain in 1958.

An ex-stevedore, Osborne was promoted through the ranks of the International Longshoremens and Warehouse Union (ILWU) to the position of Port Captain.

Specifically worked with the Pacific Far East Lines, Inc. in San Francisco, California.

Source: Ebony, 13(7)

The U.S. Navys First Black Admiral.

Overcame cultural and institutional obstacles throughout his career.

Authored book, Trailblazer which follows his career. He was a pioneer in the Navy for being the first African American to be commissioned as an officer in the USN, the first to command a Navy ship and fleet, and first to become an admiral.

The USS GRAVELY (DDG 107) was commissioned in 2010 as tribute to his honorific service.

Source:PHC Billings. U.S. NHHC

Vice Admiral Samuel L. Gravely

RADM Evelyn Fields

First African American and first woman to serve as the Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Commissioned Officer Corps.

Confirmed to the position by President Clinton in 1999.

NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps is considered the seventh uniformed service of the U.S.

Source: Black Hands, Blue Seas

Captain Gail Harris

Source: adminsailing.comFirst African-American woman to serve as a Naval Intelligence Officer in 1973, and became the highest-ranking African-American woman in the Navy when she retired in 2001.

She headed the Defense Department intelligence support for the 1988 Seoul Olympics, was the first African American woman to be an instructor at the Armed Forces Air Intelligence Training Center.

Her memoir, A Woman's War: The Professional and Personal Journey of the Navy's First African American Female Intelligence Officer, was published in 2010 and recounts her career in the Navy, including the obstacles she had to overcome as a black woman.

Source: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty ImagesAdmiral Michelle Howard Confirmed as vice chief of naval operations in December 2013, making her the first female four-star admiral, and the first African-American woman with any four-star rank.

She graduated from the Naval Academy in 1982, the third class which admitted women, and in 1999 became the first African-American woman to command a ship, the dock landing ship Rushmore.

In 2009, she took command of Combined Task Force 151, the counter-piracy strike force that coordinated the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips, which was recently dramatized in the movie Captain Phillips.

First African American graduate of SUNY Maritime College, class of 1950 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Engineering and a minor in Naval Architecture.

Continued on to the City College of New York and Boston College for graduate work in Engineering and Business.

Formed Ashby International, Ltd., of which he became President and developed projects related to power generation, desalination, and industrial work worldwide.

Was an involved member of the Organization of Black Maritime Graduates (OBMG) to promote minorities within the maritime industry.

The Carl F. Burnett Academic Achievement Scholarship Award was created in his honor to laud the applicant with the highest GPA.

Carl Frederick Burnett

After high school, Branford worked for three years in the United States Merchant Marine aboard cargo ships between East Coast ports, Europe, and South America.

In 1948, he was accepted at SUNY Maritime College and graduated in the class of 1952 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Engineering, a Third Assistant Engineers license, and commissioning as an Ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve.

First African American Sales Executive at Pan American Airways.