Summary Of Black Hands, White Sails

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The book, Black Hands, White Sails, by Patricia C. McKissack and Fredrick L. McKissack, is the story of African American whalers. This book focuses on African Americans in the East Coast whaling industry from the 1400s to the early 1900s. Black Hands, White Sails, tells the reader in great detail about the voyages of whaling ships. It all started when the Pilgrims arrived in North America in 1620 and they recorded that there were “hordes of whales in the coastal waters.” Indians hunted the whales by surrounding them with boats, harpooning the whale, and then patiently waiting for the whale to die from blood loss. After the whale died, they would cut the whale into pieces and distribute it among their community. Colonists said that killing …show more content…

New Bedford had a large population of other seamen of color who served on whale ships besides African Americans. Ship records show that there was Afro-Portuguese, Native Americans, Caribbean blacks, Latin American Indians, Maori from New Zealand and Australian aborigines, Pacific Islanders, and Malayans. The Cape Verde Islands were located three hundred and eighty-five miles off the coast of what is now Senegal in West Africa. They were claimed by the Portuguese in 1441. Portuguese men fathered children by African women who came to the islands as …show more content…

A greenie had a huge chance of dying from disease, accidental drowning, murder, or a whale attack. Young boys around ten and twelve arrived everyday. A greenie was led to the bow of the ship where there was a triangular room which was known as the “forecastle.” This would be their home for the next three to four years and had to share it with up to thirty men. They were allowed a few days of seasickness the first few days out to sea, but after they were expected to answer the bells. Ships’ bells announced the passage of time in half-hour sequences of up to eight bells. Each bell struck at the end of a four-hour interval, which was known as “watch.” Eight bells struck six times in a twenty-four hours period. These bells struck at noon, four o’clock in the afternoon, eight o’clock at night, twelve midnight, four o’clock in the morning, and eight o’clock in the morning. Sailors were very superstitious and took signs very seriously. Sailors all loved the company of cats, it was common for them to have one or two on board to keep mice and rats under control. Black cats were thought to be special, but if one was killed, it meant the worst kind of luck was coming. The car-o’-nine-tails was not loved but feared, it was a whip made of nine strips of leather with knots tied on the ends.

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