Contributions of Black Entrepreneurs to the US Whaling Industry, Abolition, and Other Civil Rights


  • Valerie Ellen Mock Suffolk University, USA


The history of Black entrepreneurs from colonial times through most of the nineteenth century in the US whaling industry provides an excellent opportunity for insights into how free Blacks and those who freed themselves became entrepreneurs and how they influenced the abolition movement and other civil rights. These industrious people became whaling captains, ship designers and builders, investors, suppliers, outfitters, and producers of whale-based items. This research used Skip Finley’s Whaling Captains of Color: America’s First Meritocracy (2020a) as a dataset of over 50 men who became whaling captains. According to Tom Nicholas in VC: An American History (2020), these men should be considered entrepreneurs. By examining the history of whaling as a commercial industry and these entrepreneurs within it, the results showed that place of birth and date of first captaincy in relationship to the 13th Constitutional Amendment ending slavery (1865) made a difference as to the type of additional entrepreneurial endeavors pursued and whether they were involved in abolition and civic responsibilities. To provide a more complete picture of Black entrepreneurs born in North America who began their business prior to 1865, three significant whaling captains and seven contemporary Black entrepreneurs were chosen and brief biographies are provided.