From Newbery Honor author Patricia C. McKissack and her husband, Fredrick L. McKissack, comes the dramatic, little-known story of the role African Americans played in the East Coast whaling industry. The whalers also played a significant part in the formation of the abolitionist movement and the Underground Railroad.
Despite the dangers of the sea, runaway slaves were eager to work on the ships, which supplied eighty percent of the oil used by Americans. Free black seamen signed on because of the career opportunities: one day they might be first mates, captains, or even owners. And there was less prejudice onboard a whale ship than on land, since cooperation was crucial for the common good of all. As one black seaman wrote, "The sea was an equalizer of men, therefore the captain chose his crew based on who could do the job best."
Black Hands, White Sails details complete voyages of whaling ships, from signing on at the docks, to the hunt, to the return home. Readers will learn about the lives of such well-known figures as Paul Cuffe, ship owner and captain; Lewis Temple, who designed the toggle-harpoon, revolutionizing the whale hunt; and Frederick Douglass, a leading abolitionist who was once a caulker of ships; as well as lesser-known individuals.
Archival photos and drawings are included, bringing this special time in history alive for young readers.