June 6, 1855

Captain Absalom Boston Dies on Nantucket


On this day in 1855, Captain Absalom Boston of Nantucket died. In an era when many African Americans worked as seamen, Absalom Boston stood out. In 1822 he captained an all-black crew on the whaleship Industry. That was but one unusual aspect of the voyage. Captains were usually respected but rarely liked. Boston's crew, however, had such a positive attitude toward him that they memorialized him in a ballad. He was a leader aboard ship and on land. When he retired from whaling, he combined a successful business with work on behalf of the island's black community. Although Absalom Boston had helped to integrate the island's public schools, when he died as a respected man of 70, he was buried in a segregated cemetery.

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