(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Scholastic Press published the McKissacks' Black Hands, White Sails in 1999. This remarkable but obscure story focuses on blacks in the East Coast whaling industry from the 1400s to the early 1900s. Despite the dangers of going to sea and hunting whales, escaped slaves sought freedom by working on ships that supplied up to 80 percent of the oil used by Americans. Free black seamen sought career opportunities as first mates, captains, or owners.

Black Hands, White Sails details complete voyages of whaling ships from registering at the docks, to hunting the whale, to returning home. The McKissacks include a collection of photographs and drawings of seamen and towns, provide renderings of political acts and crew lists, and share distinguishing songs of the voyagers. This book serves as an addition to a history or multicultural curriculum, as well as a great resource for research projects.

(The entire section is 143 words.)