Press Releases

Mystic Seaport Museum and Discovering Amistad Present a Free Program Honoring Black History Month

Mystic, Conn. (February 13, 2023) – Mystic Seaport Museum and Discovering Amistad will partner to host an invigorating moderated roundtable discussion in celebration of Black History Month. This interdisciplinary conversation will highlight Black Excellence at Sea and will include historical and contemporary Black maritime narratives.

The lecture will be held in the Masin Room of the Thompson Exhibition Building at Mystic Seaport Museum on Saturday, February 25, from 1:30 to 4:30 pm. The event will be moderated by Akeia de Barros Gomes, PhD, the Senior Curator of Maritime Social Histories at Mystic Seaport Museum, Director of the Frank C. Munson Institute of American Maritime Studies and Visiting Scholar at Brown University’s Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice.

Five Maritime Scholars will share a fascinating history and their remarkable work to reclaim and highlight Black excellence. Panelists include:

  • Dr. Kevin Dawson: Associate Professor of History, Interdisciplinary Humanities Graduate Group, Chair, University of California, Merced; Author of Undercurrents of Power: Aquatic Culture in the African Diaspora
  • Skip Finley: Journalist, Martha’s Vineyard Gazette; Author of Whaling Captains of Color: America’s First Meritocracy
  • Dr. Frank Mitchell: Cultural Organizer in Visual Arts and Public Humanities; Curatorial Advisor; Author of The Catalog Afrocosmologies: American Reflections, The Anthology African American Connecticut Explored, and The Culinary Study African American Food Culture
  • Dr. Amelia Moore: Associate Professor of Marine Affairs at the University of Rhode Island; Associate Producer of the documentary film, Decolonizing Science?
  • Dr. Timothy Walker: Professor of History, Executive Board: Center for Portuguese Studies and Culture, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth; Editor of Sailing to Freedom: Maritime Dimensions of the Underground Railroad; Tagus Press Series Co-Editor: Classic Histories from the Portuguese-Speaking World in Translation

In-person space is limited, but guests are welcome to join the event virtually. To learn more and register in advance, visit here.


Media Contact

Sophia Matsas
Director of Marketing & Communications
Mystic Seaport Museum
860.572.5317 (o)

About Mystic Seaport Museum

Mystic Seaport Museum is the nation’s leading maritime Museum. Founded in 1929 to gather and preserve the rapidly disappearing artifacts of America’s seafaring past, the Museum has grown to become a national center for research and education with the mission to “inspire an enduring connection to the American maritime experience.” The Museum’s grounds cover 19 acres on the Mystic River in Mystic, CT, and include a recreated New England coastal village, a working shipyard, formal exhibit halls, and state-of-the-art artifact storage facilities. The Museum is home to more than 500 historic watercraft, including four National Historic Landmark vessels, most notably the 1841 whaleship Charles W. Morgan. For more information, please visit mysticseaport.org and follow the Museum on FacebookTwitterYouTube, and Instagram.

About Discovering Amistad

Discovering Amistad is a nonprofit educational organization that provides full-year programming on its tall ship, The Amistad, in classrooms and at historic sites of partner organizations. It enables children and adults in Conn. and the region to discover the story of the Amistad and its impact on Conn. and the nation.  Importantly, the organization provides learning opportunities for children and adults to discover the relevance off the Amistad to today’s world. For more information, please visit discoveringamistad.org and follow us on FacebookInstagram, and TikTok.



Letters From the Colored Sailor’s Home in the Mid 19th Century

The G.W. Blunt White Library manuscript collection at Mystic Seaport Museum recently offered up an exciting find in the form of reports and correspondence relating to the Colored Sailors’ Home(s) run by the American Seamen’s Friend Society in the mid-19th century. As the name suggests, these were boarding houses specifically for sailors of color; the one referenced here was located in New York City, and run by abolitionist William Peter Powell, Sr.

Colored Sailors Home Letter 1
Figure 1

These letters are striking in terms of Powell’s frankness regarding the state of racism in the United States during the mid-19th century, as well as his dedication to advocating for his boarders. In one letter from April 15, 1862 (fig. 1), he writes to the Board of Trustees of the Sailors’ Home Committee to ask for financial help in securing a building to open a new Colored Sailors’ Home. He cites his success in operating one many years before, and pointedly states that he only left it to take his children to England in 1851 for their schooling, since “…owing to the prejudice against Color they could not acquire [an education] in this their native Country.” In another letter accompanying a financial report in December 1862 (fig. 2), Powell describes the harrowing circumstances encountered by Black sailors arriving in New York before they found safe quarters in the Sailors’ Home; in many other letters, he takes care to detail the sailors’ exemplary behavior despite having faced these difficulties. He seems to be working hard to demonstrate to the Board that even the “free” northern U.S. is not a welcoming place for sailors of color, and that it is worthwhile to provide safe, secure places for them to stay while on land. 

Letters for the Colored Sailors Home 2
Figure 2

These are just two letters out of 28, and the whole collection gives us the opportunity to view the Civil War era from this compelling perspective. They are especially meaningful during Black History Month and the continuing work on the “Just Futures, Reimagining New England” project, funded by the Andrew C. Mellon foundation, both of which spur us on to examine our understanding of history through the lens of racial justice.

Written By Emma Burbank, Registrarial and Research Assistant