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Black History Month Brings Diverse Programs To San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

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Officers, apprentices and crew of the sailing ship Rathdown photographed in San Francisco after completing a six-month voyage around Cape Horn from Belfast. NPS photo.


A diverse sampling of maritime history will be on display in February at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park in honor of Black History Month.

The programs and exhibits take a look at both African American and West Indies maritime history.

African Americans have played a major role in the country's maritime history. From the earliest days of the nation to modern times, African Americans have built, crewed, and captained ships, fought in wars, invented shipboard tools, and created maritime music. Here's a look at the programs to be offered:

African Americans in the Maritime Trades: A Photographic Exhibition

Daily throughout February, 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m., in the Visitor Center, 499 Jefferson Street, at Hyde Street. Free admission. Information; 415-447-5000, or on the park's website. Wheelchair accessible. View rare photographs and learn about African American officers, sailors, cooks, longshoremen and shipbuilders.

The Great Migration in Alaska: African Americans, the Alaska Packers Association, and the Politics of Race at Sea, 1896-1929

February 2, 16, and 23. 2:15 p.m., aboard Balclutha, Hyde Street Pier. Information; 415-447-5000 or the park's website. Wheelchair accessible. The Balclutha was renamed Star of Alaska during her years in the Alaskan salmon trade. In 1920, 307 African Americans signed contracts to work in Alaska’s salmon industry and voyaged north aboard the Star of Alaska and other ships like her. These men were part of the early wave of the Great Migration out of the South.

The Saga of Captain William Shorey

Saturday, February 15 and Sunday, February 16, 3 p.m. in the Visitor Center, 499 Jefferson Street. Free admission. Wheelchair accessible. A series of slides will introduce you to the extraordinary life and accomplishments of the only Black whaling ship captain on the West Coast.

Chanteys: The African American and Caribbean Connection

Saturday, February 22, 1 p.m.-1:45 p.m., aboard Balclutha. Ships' admission fees apply: Adults, $5. Ages 15 and under (accompanied by an adult), free. Free with national park passes. Information; 415-447-5000 or the park's website. Wheelchair accessible. Discover African American and Caribbean-based maritime work songs in this ranger and volunteer-led program. Sing chanteys of sailors, longshoremen, oarsmen and fishermen. The choruses of these work songs are easy to sing, and everyone is encouraged to sing along.

San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park is located at the west end of Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco. The park includes a magnificent fleet of historic sailing and steam vessels, Visitor Center, Maritime Library, and Aquatic Park Historic District.

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