UNH Speakers Bureau
Black Jacks: African American Seamen in the Age of Sail (Book Title)
W. Jeffrey Bolster, master mariner and historian, shatters the myth that black seafaring in the age of sail was limited to the Middle Passage. Rescuing African American seamen from obscurity, this stirring account reveals the critical role sailors played in helping forge new identities for black people in America. An epic tale of the rise and fall of black seafaring, Black Jacks is African Americans' freedom story presented from a fresh perspective.
Professor Jeff Bolster, of the UNH History Department, is a prize-winning historian who delights in sharing his research with a variety of audiences. His most recent book, The Mortal Sea: Fishing the Atlantic in the Age of Sail (Harvard University Press, 2012) won the Bancroft Prize, one of American History’s most prestigious awards. Bolster draws on that book with an engaging and richly illustrated talk that explains the backstory to our contemporary crisis in commercial fisheries. For audiences interested in environmental topics, he can also present on “Fish, Trees, Sheep and Factories: Environmental Change in New Hampshire,” which is drawn from the volume he edited, Cross-Grained and Wily Waters: A Guide to the Piscataqua Maritime Region. Another illustrated talk, “When Shipping was King: the Piscataqua Region in Colonial America” is adapted from a book Bolster wrote with two other authors, The Way of the Ship:America’s Maritime History Re-envisioned, 1600-2000. During Black History Month, in February, Bolster is often called on to present his talk on Black Jacks: African American Seamen in the Age of Sail, adapted from his prize-winning book with the same title. Black Jacks is the stirring story of African Americans’ role in the shipping industry during the era of slavery, and how Black sailors used their skills in the quest for freedom. A presentation developed from his work on the PBS-TV series, “Columbus and the Age of Discovery,” is called “Re-Thinking 1492: Christopher Columbus in Myth and History.” As a young man Bolster was a professional mariner for ten years, and he is still licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard as a Master Mariner. In his presentation called “Sea Stories,” Bolster weaves together an entertaining program drawn from the maritime history he knows so well, and his more than 50 years of messing about in boats.
Other topics offered by Jeffrey Bolster