BLACK HANDS, WHITE SAILS: THE STORY OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN WHALERS by Patricia C. McKissack and Frederick L. McKissack

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A Coretta Scott King Award Honor book Black Hands, White Sails describes the nineteenth century whaling industry, focusing on African-Americans whalers.  Although the whaling industry began before slavery ended in the United States, many free African-Americans took jobs on whaling ships, since racial prejudice often precluded them from safer, higher paying land-bound jobs.  Patricia and Frederick McKissack explore all aspects of the whaling industry–from the technology, to the people involved, to some terrifying catastrophes and survival stories–while also putting the events in context with the American Revolution and the development and eventual abolition of slavery in the United States.  This book is fascinating, but dense enough to interest middle grade, teen, and adult readers more than young readers. 

If you liked Black Hands, White Sails and have the stomach for a more gruesome story, you should check out Revenge of the Whale by Nathaniel Philbrick–another nonfiction book about the whaling industry.  You may also enjoy The Longitude Prize by Joan Dash.

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